Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sourdough Here, Sourdough Gone :: The Fallacy of Multitasking

Remember that awesome organic sourdough culture I spent a week making? You may have seen it in the last post, bubbling merrily in its homey jar. Yeah, well, I accidentally dropped it on our kitchen tiles last night, in one of those movie-worthy, car-crash/slow motion moments, where you see tragedy unfolding before you, but are helpless to prevent it. Sourdough here, sourdough gone. 

I picked up the shards of glass, and the precious culture, and binned them. 
Time to start again. 


But let's reflect on this. What was I doing at the time I dropped it? Too much. My arms were full of stuff, my fridge was full of stuff, and I was "multi-tasking" - which, by the way, researchers have now shown to be a fallacy. We don't multi-task at all - our brains just switch back and forth between tasks, and quite inefficiently. We tell ourselves we can do it, but according to researchers at the University of Utah (who conducted this interesting study) our views of our own multitasking abilities are "significantly inflated." 

I love that. Significantly inflated. What a nice way of saying bull shit.

So ultimately, I wasn't concentrating. I lost focus.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rustic Barley Soup with Kale and Sweet Potato

This week, I made babies.


It was a week of newborn cultivation - changing and feeding and watching expectantly ... and then, yesterday, there they were. My own yeasty, sourdough babies. I'm not even going to pretend I know what I'm doing with them, but they're sitting in the fridge right now, and they've already provided us with a lovely (tasty but dense) little loaf for dinner last night.

So, you could say I've been thinking about bread a lot lately. And by lately, I mean for the past 10 years. It all started with a couple trips to Europe, some intensely-disappointing local baguettes, and this book - which inspired my current sourdough project (and some amazing pretzels!). I'm lazy, which has hindered me on the bread-making front ... even after years of trying, I'm happier meditating for 10 minutes than tinkering with gloopy dough on my benchtop, regardless of its meditative qualities.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

6 Great Tips for Getting Natural Probiotics into a Sick Child

organic childrens recipes

Being a mum is way harder than I imagined. Even now - even when she's sleeping long hours and pulling her own food (and often, more) out of the fridge. We can hold actual conversations, and she expresses opinions other than 'NOOOOOOO!' 

(Sometimes)

But when she's sick, she's my baby girl all over again. Suddenly, being a mum (her mum) inundates everything - dishes, dinner, grants, books - because all she needs is me to be close. It's challenging and sweet, to feel loved and needed. Needed. Not in the same way the world needs my research, or my recipe for mayonnaise or my poems. Because do they really? Not in that way, her way.

And when I remember to reshuffle my priorities, there she is. All there is in this world is her.


Nelle had a throat infection recently, which didn't stop her incessant talking but which did require antiobiotics and rest. Lots of Dora the Explorer, and cuddles in bed. And probiotics.

There's growing scientific evidence that our lives are really run from our guts - all those gazillions of bacteria down there can affect our moods, immune function, and may even be linked with health issues such as obesity. So when we're sick, and we take an antibiotic - which nails everything - it's important to make sure those native microflora populating our digestive systems can rebound. 

That's where pro-biotics come in - and no, you don't need special pills from the pharmacist.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

4 Weeks of Lunchbox Inspiration

This may seem like just five options, but here's the thing. You can make a big batch of muffins, a big batch of nut-free banana bread, a big batch of quesadillas, a big batch of puff pastry pies, and a big batch of meringues, AND FREEZE THEM. You could even do a couple variants on the muffin/quesadilla/pie theme, should you have the energy. But, in my opinion - the same-ish lunchbox, once a week? Not a biggie.

Do this today - before school starts again, for us Queenslanders - and you are set for April/May. You can use all your newfound time to catch up on yoga in the morning, or coffee, or see if you can nail a tree-pose-with-cappuccino.

Make lunches, and time.
Amanda xx

organic childrens recipes
1 - banana bread :: chicken + pea pies :: dried apricot :: grape "eggs" in alfalfa sprout "nest"
2 - brown sugar meringue :: red capsicum (pepper) :: cheese quesadilla :: kidney beans

organic childrens recipes
3 - cocoa butter + coconut ball :: dried cranberries :: poppadoms :: sushi balls :: orange slices

organic childrens recipes
4 - zucchini muffin :: carrot flowers :: raisins + cheese :: tomato
organic childrens recipes
5 - steak :: pasta shapes :: apple slices :: roasted sweet potato

Here are the ideas and recipes, but the key is to go with what your child eats!  This isn't meant to be prescriptive, but a guideline to keep you sane when you're trying to pull together lunches for the whole family. For these ideas, I'm assuming your child's lunchbox can be kept cool via a fridge or cooler pack. Always use your best judgement! :)

Just so you know, Nelle's class has a mid-morning fruit snack and morning tea - all before lunch, which is why I don't fill up the lunchbox too much. You can vary quantities according to your child's appetite. NOTE: for mid-morning, I usually send grapes or a banana, depending on what she's been eating for the rest of the week; and for morning tea she usually gets toast, crackers, or yogurt.

Lunchbox 1:
  • Banana bread - recipe here
  • Puff pastry pie - I don't usually follow a recipe, but all you have to do is fold small rectangles of puff pastry around cooked fillings you know your child likes (like meat/veggies/cheese/tomato). Crimp the edges with your finger, to keep the fillings from oozing out, and use a knife to poke a few holes in the top of the pie to prevent explosion. Bake in a preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and flaky. Cool and slice. NOTE: I try to avoid cheese in these pies, because I know she'll have it a couple times in her lunches later in the week.
  • Large dried fruit - Whatever's your favourite, but mix it up week-to-week. Try apricots, dates, mangoes or figs.
  • Grape nest - The presentation is key here: make it look interesting, and it will become imminently more edible. Just 4 grapes on alfalfa sprouts, and Nelle thinks it's the coolest thing ever.

Lunchbox 2:
  • Meringue - recipe here
  • Crunchy raw veggies (not carrot) - Whatever's your favourite, just not carrots - we'll have those later in the week. Try capsicum (peppers) or snow peas.
  • Quesadilla - Simply fold a tortilla over cheese (and meat or jam) and cook in a toastie maker or on a hot griddle until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is golden. Cut into wedges. I usually make extras and freeze them.
  • Beans - We like kidney beans, black beans, lentils or baked beans - sometimes plain, sometimes with a little tomato puree stirred through. Don't forget a spoon if it's saucy!

Lunchbox 3:
  • Small dried fruit - We like raisins, cherries or cranberries.
  • Cocoa butter balls - Remember that notebook I lost? I'm pretty sure this recipe was in there. Damn. I think they had cocoa butter, toasted shredded coconut, buckwheat flour and rapadura sugar, but I'll have to tinker to get that recipe back. In the meantime, you can sub in your favourite wholesome cookie. (Here's mine)
  • Crispy poppadoms (Indian lentil-flour chips - find them at the supermarket and microwave according to packet instructions)
  • Fish-Free Sushi - recipe here
  • Fresh fruit - Go for seasonal colour here, to balance the whiteness

Lunchbox 4: 
  • Veggie muffin - Use whatever you've got ... zucchini, carrot, sweet potato ... but go nut-free.
  • Raw carrot flowers - It's easy to make carrots pretty, just slice off the ends and make 5 small "v" shaped incisions along the length of the carrot, removing the "v" material. Then slice into flowers. I've experimented with love-hearts, too, but if you have a boy you might have to get creative with robots or something ...
  • Dried fruit - Try something you haven't used already this week
  • Cheese - I try to vary this, too - sometimes she'll get a cheese stick, other times slices or cubes of different sorts.
  • Antipasto - I used raw tomato here, which can hardly be called antipasto ... but I often mix the tomatoes with olives, and it just sounds better that way. Am I right?

Lunchbox 5:  
  • Meat - Use whatever you have leftover from dinner. For us, that's usually steak or lamb. I don't send fish - it's too potentially messy/stinky on her school uniform.
  • Pasta - I almost always have made-up pasta shapes in the fridge for kiddie emergencies. Nelle *loves* them in her lunch! Go for shapes that are easy to eat, and add sauce if you like.
  • Fruit slices - We like apple or pear, but brush each slice with a little lemon to keep it from going brown.
  • Roast veggies - Again, go with what you've made for dinner. Ours usually include roasted sweet potatoes, pumpkin or potatoes.
 Happy lunchboxing!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Amaranth and Basil Pesto


I am seriously hoping this pesto calms my nerves. It's not what I usually turn to, at times like this ... but my whole body is fizzing with stress right now. Like soda water. Or live wires. I can't think, and I'm thinking GREEN stuff might help.

Here's the deal. Nelle loves school, she loves day care, she loves holiday programs. What she can't handle is me leaving. I don't know what's happened over this last year - it was never like this before she started school - but oh, the soul-wrenching tears at drop-off time. The clinging, the mummy please don't go, the pleading look on her face. Having to pry her white knuckles off my leg, turn my back on her and just go. (No looking back, don't do it, don't look back)

It absolutely crushes me.

There's nothing like feeling you're abandoning your child to get you in the mood for productive, efficient work ... So I start the bulk of my day feeling like shit, shaking with anxiety. Knowing that she's fine and happy and has likely already forgotten me doesn't make me feel any better. 

I feel like turning to chocolate, or wine, or Vicodin. But those are short-term fixes, am I right?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Esquites


I felt like Alice all day yesterday, upsidedown a rabbit hole somewhere. My body groaned, my head muddled, my priorities mixed up. I spent far too little time with my daughter and moped in bed for a good part of the afternoon about things out of my control. What to do? It was just one of those days.

Eventually, I made pasta - and ate it - at 5pm. I was in bed by 5:30 (with tea and cookies), and had enticed my family to join me by 6:00. And things were okay. Not great, yet, but okay. 

And today, things have been better. I've drawn lines between the things I need to do and the things I really need to do. I've simplified. 

I'm also having a nap. 
Nighty-night.
Amanda xx

***********
Esquites
serves 3 as a main-ish, 6 as a side

Esquites is (according to Fiona Dunlop's Real Mexican Food) Mexican street food at its charred, spiced, mayonnaised best. I made my own version for lunch today, subbing sour cream for Fiona's mayo and goat cheese for her feta, and chipotle for chili powder. My oh my, the world was almost turned back upside down again. Lucky for me, I ate it in bed.

The time
15 min

The ingredients
3 cups frozen corn, cooked and drained and set aside
1 Tbs olive oil
1 red onion, minced
1 Tbs fresh parsley, minced (or substitute fresh coriander/cilantro)
2 heaping Tbs thick sour cream (I love Barambah)
a crumbling of crumbly goat cheese
a pinch or two of smoky chipotle powder (or substitute smoked paprika)
sea salt, to taste

The process
1. Saute the onion + parsley in olive oil over medium heat until soft (but not browned). Add the cooked, drained corn and cook for another 5 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and stir through the sour cream. Dish into bowls or cups or open mouths, top with goat cheese, chipotle powder and sea salt.

The cost
I always have a bag of frozen corn on hand, but you could also use fresh (which would probably be the cheaper way to do this organically). My batch cost me around $3, done with non-organic frozen corn + organic everything else.

NOTES:
  • use organic when you can, particularly for the dairy. Happy cows = happy milk. 
  • make this with barbecued corn (cut off the cob) for an extra-special treat
  • this makes a great side dish for guacamole + chips, and meat, fish or beans

***********
And a big special thanks to Babble.com for naming me in their Top 100 Food Blogs of 2013 - and #5 in the Health-Conscious category. They wrote some really nice things ... I think I'm still blushing. 

Another big special thanks to Charity at Foodlets for putting together a great muffin competition that saw my sweet potato muffins awarded Best of the Year! I'm so happy everyone loved them :) xx

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Week That Was :: Paddington Bear + Pesto + Mountain lions + Sweet potato muffins

This week,

We drove back from Sydney, listening to Stephen Fry read us Paddington Bear stories on audiobook. It was just about the greatest thing ever.

the New England Highway, through NSW

Nelle lost both her front teeth, purely naturally {but she's still so little!!}, and I did a bit of research and writing on nanoparticles, telomeres and sex addiction. And no, it wasn't that kind of research. 

I had a dream about a mountain lion attacking a cow, and woke up feeling like it must mean something. But what? Honestly, I question my brain sometimes.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How to Feast :: A Vegetarian Middle-Eastern Menu + Recipes


Feast, according to the Oxford English Dictionary:
a large meal, typically a celebratory one
a plentiful supply of something enjoyable

Life gets busy, and full of commitments - not all of them marital. Our kitchens get messy, and our floors even more so. We rush around between work and the greengrocer and ballet class and soccer, and try our best to create healthy, homecooked meals that won't just be eaten - but loved. We put pressure on ourselves, too much pressure, and panic at the thought of entertaining.

But let me tell you something. 

Sometimes we all need a good feast. A celebration of everything and nothing, an excuse for food and friends and who gives a shit about how many dishes pile up in the sink? No panic, or fanciness, or showing off ... (maybe just a little showing off) ... but a feast for showing your friends and family how much you love them. Through ample, enjoyable food. 

A feast ... for feasting.

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