Thursday, September 30, 2010


Lamb shanks for dinner tonight.  Holy hell they were so good.  The meat was so tender, it fell off the bone when I was trying to pull it out of the slow cooker.  This was the first time I have cooked lamb shanks myself; I've had them in restaurants quite a few times before and enjoyed them.  I must say though, mine were much more tender than those I have tried in restaurants.  I guess they don't use slow cookers there.

This is the recipe I used:

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 6 lamb shanks, about 6 pounds
1 cup dry red wine
3 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary, or about 1 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped parsley, or 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
4 large cloves garlic, finely minced
16 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 large carrot, diced
12 to 16 ounces small white onions, peeled, or 2 medium onions, cut in wedges


In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Cook the lamb shanks in the hot oil, turning frequently, until browned on all sides. Place the browned lamb shanks in a 5 to 7-quart slow cooker. Add the peeled onions or onion wedges to the slow cooker.Meanwhile, combine the wine with mustard, vinegar, salt, pepper, rosemary, parsley, and garlic; set aside.To the hot skillet, add mushrooms and carrots. Cook the mushrooms and carrots for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Spoon the vegetables over the lamb shanks. Pour the wine mixture into the skillet, scraping up the browned bits with a spatula. Bring to a simmer; pour over the lamb shanks in the slow cooker.Cover and cook on HIGH for 2 hours. Reduce heat to LOW and cook for 6 to 8 hours longer.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Almost-Vegan Banana Chocolate Mousse Tart

The Crust
2 Cups LSA (1 cup flax seeds, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup almonds)
1 cup cashews
1/2 tsp sea salt
6 large Medjool dates
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp vanilla extract

The Filling
2 medium ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
4 Tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 banana

Add LSA mixture, cashews, vanilla extract, medjool dates, 1 Tbsp honey, 1/2 tsp sea salt into a food processor and process until the crust starts to rise on the sides of the bowl. 

Press crust crumbs onto the bottom and sides of a pie pan to form the crust.  Place a layer of sliced banana evenly on the top of the crust.

Place avocados, cocoa powder, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and 1/4 tsp salt into a food processor and process until completely smooth and creamy. 

Spread the chocolate filling on the top of the bananas, then add a top layer of banana slices.  Chill at least one hour prior to serving.  Can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

The Result:

The Verdict: 
Yum!!  The chocolate mousse was so good!  The creaminess obviously comes from the avocado.  Although avocado has around 14g of fat per 100g, it also has a good amount of fiber which you will not find in regular pudding/mousse. I did think the crust was a little salty; not real salty but just a little bit too prominent.  Next time I'd probably half the amount of salt in the crust. I was surprised the crust held up so good.  It slices really easy and stays together nicely when transferred to a place.

source: adapted from Renata Holicova's original recipe

In My Lunchbox: Episode Three

This is what I've been having for lunch for the past week.  Something like a Thai Beef Salad.

Roast Beef
Salad Mix
Cucumber finely sliced
Tomato finely sliced
Red Onion, finely sliced
Sweet Chili Sauce
Salt n Pepper

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Awesome Post

I thought I'd do a post on the awesome things that I've seen, done or had happen to me in the past week or so. There are always things to be grateful for!

1. Losing your wallet and having the person that found it hand it it to the local police station with nothing taken. Not only awesome, but bloody awesome.  It restored my faith in humanity a little.  If I could hug the person I would!

2. Home made pizza. Observe:

ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, buffalo mozzarella, onion, tomato, green bell pepper, fresh torn basil

you know you want me

3. Christine from For The Love Of Cookies, squatting 215lbs for 5.  Awesome.  She's only a little thing at 114lbs!  Most women can barely squat their own bodyweight once.  She's squatting almost double her body weight for reps!

  4. Trying a new beer.  Awesome.  I really enjoyed this one, and like the label suggests it has a hint of honey in the flavour.

a thing of beauty

5. Spiders.  Especially when they eat the flies that come into your house.  I am actually scared of spiders but I adopted a spider and named him Harry.  We try and feed him now and again. He's awesome.

6. Upcoming annual leave. Enough said.

7.  Food blogs, in particular Angela's blog at Oh She Glows.  Her blog really inspires me to eat better.  I tried her lentil walnut burgers the other day and they were awesome.  Even my husband thought they were really good and he looooves meat (as most men do).  Thanks Angela!

burger in progress
I know the burger is the focus of the conversation, but do you see the beer in the background??

8. My new vacuum cleaner.  Either my house gets incredibly dirty after a week or it is picking up a crapload  stuff in my house.  That's what I'm talkin' about. 

9. Today.  It is spring at the moment and it was a perfect spring day: sunny, lovely temperature, birds singing, flowers blooming *sigh*

10. Massage.  I had one today for the first time in over one year and it was AWESOME.  I feel so good right now.  I saw Shelly at Bodyneed. I used to get them every 2 weeks a couple of years ago and I felt the best I have ever when I did that.  I want to try and do this again.

11. My bunny being bunny. She is so cute!

12. Going for a run and beating your time from last week by one minute. Awesome!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Big Bag of Kale

I got home from work at about 9:40pm tonight didn't feel like making dinner.  Matt wasn't really hungry so I decided to just make a big batch of Kale chips.  I've posted before on how much I love this vegetable since I discovered it. If you have not tried the awesomeness of Kale chips, they are super easy to make and surprisingly quite filling.

One big bunch of Kale
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Any other seasoning of choice, I use garlic powder

Preheat oven to 150-200 degrees C (depending on how powerful your oven is). Wash and dry Kale.  The drying part is important because you want the Kale to be crispy; if it's wet then it just goes soggy in the oven.  Remove the firm stem of the Kale leaf and feed it to your greedy, begging rabbit:
Exhibit A
Rip the Kale leaves into bite size pieces and arrange on a non stick oven tray.  Spray the leaves lightly with oil (I used olive oil) then season with salt, pepper and any other seasoning you wish.  Place in oven for about 5-10 minutes.  They should be light and crispy and some pieces will be slightly burned.

Enjoy the awesomeness of Kale chips!  They're just so light, crispy and tasty at the same time.  They also feel very fibrous and filling.

Anyone else here like Kale chips?  Anyone think they're nothing special?

I think for me a lot of it is the novelty of a leafy green mimicking an unhealthy snack, but tasting good and being good for you.

Good Morning Spring!

Spring is finally here in the Southern Hemisphere!

The spring equinox was today, in the early AM.  Today, both the day and night are about equal in length.  I woke up to a pretty ferocious windy and rainy morning. 

You wouldn't know it is spring here at all; it feels like the weather has withered back into winter.  It's been raining hard, very windy and the temperature has dropped several degrees.  The only thing that tells us it's spring here is the blossoming flowers and trees and longer days.

I really love spring; the excitement of longer days, the excitement of change and hopefully nice sunny weather.  It's also nice to see the lovely flowers blossoming and so many new colours!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Moroccan Couscous

From Next magazine....

500g couscous
600ml vegetable stock
2 Tbsp olive oil
100g toasted slivered almonds
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground turmeric
50g butter
1 handful of coriander, chopped

Pour the couscous into an ovenproof dish.  Gradually add the vegetable stock and stir with a fork so it is absorbed evenly.  Leave to swell for bout 10 minutes.  Mix in olive oil and rub the couscous between your hands above the bowl to airit and break up any lumps. Stir through the almonds and spices.  Place in an oven pre-heated at 200 degrees C for 15 minutes.  Mix through butter and coriander just before serving.

The Result:

The Verdict: Yum!!! This tastes so good.  I think the butter at the end is a nice touch, it gives it a very nice flavour.  The spices are perfect and aren't strong but just subtly flavour the dish.  I halved the recipe for 2 people and I could have eaten the whole thing (but I won't!).  Do give this a try.

Monday, September 20, 2010

This Weekend

I had a pretty good weekend this weekend.  I got a few things done that I've been meaning to do and we also went out on Saturday night.

Here's a list of what I did:
Went out for dinner at the Sky Tower.
Watched a couple of movies: The Blind Side and Universal Solider sequel.
Re-potted Willy the Christmas Tree (yes I named my mini Christmas tree)
Potted my cherry tomato plant
Bought a new vacuum cleaner and got rid of my POS old one
Vacuumed the whole place with the new vacuum cleaner
Went for a run
Planted more vegetable seeds for my family: bell pepper, summer spinach and cherry tomatoes
Finished sewing my top

The new vacuum was really expensive, but by golly it cleans the carpet good.   I spent quite a bit more than I anticipated, but I must say it is worth every cent. It has a power brush which is self-motorized unlike the turbo heads which are air driven.  I bought the Sebo K 3 Airbelt Vulcano, a German brand (and made in Germany).  It has a very high standard HEPA filter system so is excellent for people with allergies.  I really noticed the difference after vacuuming with the Sebo; we only live in a small one bedroom 1/2 villa, so the carpeted area isn't very huge.  Even so, I filled half, maybe three quarters of the bag today.  It just pulls so much crap out of your carpet....disgusting!  I even used it to vacuum our mattress, I reckon there must be so much crap lying in there.  I noticed quite a big difference smell-wise after vacuuming, just a "nothing" smell really; no mustiness from dust.

Whenever I buy a new appliance big or small I always try and save up and buy quality products.  I've been wanting to buy a new vacuum since January this year but I've been saving and saving and waiting off because other bills have come up.  I don't see any point in buying cheap stuff that won't do the job properly and then having to spend more money in a year or two.  In the long run it ends up being more expensive as you have to replace the appliance more often.

I see this kinda thing in my job all the time, except people expect the cheap stuff to last such a long time.  I don't understand that mentality at all!  They buy the cheapest product in the store and expect it to last as long as the best quality product in the store....DUH!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Friday Night Sew In: The Result

Friday night was a success!  I managed to finish sewing my garment.  I'm not sure why I procrastinated doing this because it was actually a very easy garment to sew!  It probably took me about 20 minutes to complete.  The pattern says it takes one hour to complete and that's about right - from cutting and assembling the pattern, to cutting the fabric then sewing it, not much longer than one hour in total.  The edges of the fabric are left raw which cuts down on the sewing time.  I think it almost looks like a dancers workout top, with the boatneck and raw edges.

The finished product

The top is actually quite long on one side; if it was a little bit longer I could wear it as a dress.  In fact, I might do that.  I think I might alter the pattern a little so it's a bit longer and will cover my legs a bit more.

The other side is pretty indecent but as you can see from the above photo, it's quite long on one side.

And lastly, my outfit for today wearing my new top

The light blue colour in the fabric matches a pair of hoop earrings I have perfectly!  Bonus!  I tucked it into my skirt as the bottom part is pretty fitting and would really only look good with leggings.  I am definitely not a leggings gal though so I will only be wearing it tucked in I think.

My next sewing project will be a dress, for spring!

Relaxin' Weekend

If only all our weekends were like this

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Night Sew In

I've decided to participate in this so I actually get off my ass and sew something.    Go HERE for details.

I've had a top cut out for ages that I have not yet attempted to sew together; I've forced myself into this commitment so I can get something done!  Tomorrow night will be half gone with going to the gym and cooking dinner, but no matter what I will get this done.

This is the pattern I am using (top A/pictured top)

This is the material I am using to make the top

If it seems familiar, it probably is because embarrassingly I posted about making this top over a year ago *blush*  Crikey, that's really bad.  Sewing is probably the only thing I am really good about procrastinating about.  Well, that and cleaning sometimes, but sewing is definitely the worst!

I will report back on the weekend to show you the end result, perhaps even with me wearing it!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Custard Apple

Also known as a Cherimoya here. Have you ever eaten one of these before?  They're not very common in the supermarkets.  They grow in sub tropical climates; I think ours come from Australia but they're also commonly grown in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, India & Africa.

I'd describe the taste as a combination of mild mango, banana and a touch of apple.  It really is a lovely taste and it has a creamy texture as the name suggests.

Nutritionally it has an excellent source of Vitamin C, a good amount of dietary fibre and respectable amounts of  of Vitamin B6, magnesium and potassium.  Not exactly a superfood, but definitely a tasty fruit!

Not only is the fruit nutritionally sound, the leaves and bark of the plant it grows on is used in natural remedies.  The leaves are used as a tonic for cold or digestive remedy; it can also be added to baths to aid rheumatic pain such as tired muscles and aching joints.  The bark and roots are given as a tonic to halt diarrhea .  The root itself can be administered as a drastic treatment for dysentery.  The seeds are toxic and can be crushed to treat head lice. Very interesting!

As I don't eat them very frequently, I have never used them to cook with or use them in a recipe; I usually just enjoy them as is.  To serve, I usually slice it in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.  As you can see you have to dodge quite a few stones.  I imagine they would make quite a tasty dessert if you choose to use it in recipes; I did find one recipe for Custard Apple cream which looks very nice from the Australian Custard Apple Growers Association website.

Custard Apple Cream
3tsps gelatine
1/3 cup boiling water
500g soft light cream cheese
½ cup caster sugar
190ml cream
2 custard apples, cut into segments, deseeded and pureed with a squeeze of lemon
Dissolve gelatine in one-third of a cup of boiling water. In a bowl beat softened cream cheese thoroughly then add gelatine mixture, caster sugar and cream. Add custard apple puree and beat until smooth. Pour into dessert glasses or pots. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

In My Lunchbox: Episode Two

Oka or Raw Fish Salad.  It sounds gross but it is delicious!  Ingredients are raw fish cooked in lemon or lime juice, onion, tomato, coriander, salt and pepper.  You can add bell pepper too if you wish. The recipe can be found here

What's in your lunchbox today?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pumpkin & Coconut Loaf

Adapted from Vegweb

1 cup unsweetened coconut
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil 
1/2 cup mashed cooked pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Toast coconut in a dry skillet/frypan until browned. In a bowl mix dry ingredients together, including the coconut.  In a separate bowl, whisk wet ingredients together.  Mix together with a metal spoon.  Pour into non stick loaf pan and bake at 350F for about 45 minutes.  Your baking time will vary depending on your oven.
 The Result

The Verdict

The flavour of this loaf is very subtle.  I thought with a whole cup of coconut in the ingredients it would have a very strong coconut flavour, but it doesn't.  I would suggest if you do want a strong coconut flavour, to add a little coconut extract to the recipe.  The texture is very nice and the loaf is quite moist.  In some parts, the coconut can give the loaf a dry feeling, but it's just the pieces of coconut.  I think next time I might add a little spice to it to bring out the flavour of the pumpkin.  Even more pumpkin and less milk might be nice: I suggest increasing the pumpkin to 1 cup and decreasing the milk to 1/2 cup.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rocky Road Cookies

Adapted slightly from Vegweb


Not the traditional type of rocky road as it doesn't have peanuts.  I didn't have any peanuts and I like almonds better so they found their way into the recipe. 

1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup halved almonds
1/3 cup chocolate chips (or chocolate chopped up)
mini marshmallows

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl (except for marshmallows). Cream butter and sugar. Add dry ingredients to butter and sugar.  Add milk. Mix with a metal spoon.  Using your hands form the dough into balls (approximately 16).  Press marshmallow (about 2 or 3) into cookie dough.  Bake at 350F for about 10 minutes depending on your oven.

That's what I'm talking about

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I am Kitty

I took some pictures today of our cat, Freddie.  She's a shithead sometimes but mostly she's a good cat.  We rescued her from the SPCA last year and she's settled down well into our routine.  She's very affectionate and very very talkative.  I come home from work and say "Hello Kitty" and she says "Mrow".  It's pretty funny.  She's more like a dog than a cat I feel.  If Matt and I both leave the room she will always follow us to see what we're up to; she doesn't like being alone.  She loves Matt and will wait outside the bathroom while he's having a shower. Her favourite things are Dinner time, Breakfast time, lying in the sun, scratching her post and mousie (her knitted toy mouse).

Yessss little mousie, just a little closer to my mouth... that's right....

Comfy spot...check, Sun... check.  No damn rabbit....check. All I need now is a mouse cocktail and a cabana-tom
Oooh!  Hottie at 12 o'clock!!
WTF, no one was supposed to see this picture! I wasn't ready!!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My New Favourite Vegetable

My new favourite vegetable is Kale: Brassica oleracea var acephala.  I like the name Kale better - much easier to say.

Photo Credit

For some reason Kale isn't very common in New Zealand.  I haven't seen it sold in conventional supermarkets, or standard fruit and vegetable shops.  I buy mine from a special organic whole food store. I'm not sure why it's not popular here; it is quick and easy to grow.

I'm actually trying to grow my own kale at the moment, only one lone shoot out of twelve I planted two weeks ago.
Grow little kale, grow!!

Kale is thought to be the first cultivated brassica.  It is regarded a superfood; one cup of steamed kale has more than enough vitamin A and vitamin K for an adult for the day.  It also contains considerable amounts of vitamin C, manganese and dietary fibre. Anti-oxidants such as lutein and beta-carotene are found in kale; they protect our body from oxidative stress and health problems related to oxidative stress. Of these anti-oxidants, lutein in particular is important for eye health and helps prevent or slow down development of age related macular degeneration and cataract.

One thing to watch out for if you eat a lot of kale is oxalates.  If they become too concentrated they can crystallize in the body and cause kidney and gallstones.  I did read that asparagus contains asparagine which helps break down oxalates, so really it's a matter of a balanced diet of different fruit and vegetables and not having too much of one thing.

Kale can be stored for two to three weeks in the refridgerator and freezes well, however it is best used within a week.  The longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavour becomes.  I usually purchase 2-3 bags and use it every day in salads and smoothies and it is usually used within a week.  I have my own hopping greedy compost maker aka Daisy that will eat the tough stalks that I don't use on the curly kale, so there is no wastage.

I like Kale because it's more fibrous and holds it's shape well when cooked;  I use it to replace spinach in a lot of recipes.  I do like spinach, but I get a whole bag of it from the store and it cooks down to the size of a tennis ball.  It also makes my teeth feel funny after eating it (weird I know).  Kale barely shrinks if you lightly steam it and my teeth feel normal after eating it.

Some ways I enjoy kale:

Kale chips
Sauteed with garlic, onion, vegetable stock
In smoothies or "green monsters".  I usually use about 10-15 leaves.
Lightly steamed and tossed in salads
Chopped and steamed then tossed with pine nuts and feta cheese

If you have not tried this vegetable yet, go get some kale today!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

In My Lunchbox

Steamed Kale, Radish, Tomato, Grated Carrot, Yellow Pepper, Avocado, Sea Salt, Pepper and a side of chicken breast (not shown).

Yum, I love big salads.  I find that if I use a variety of vegetables and a couple of juicy ones (like grated carrot and tomato) I don't need any other dressing apart from salt and pepper.  The vegetables just taste so good.

What was in your lunchbox today?

Today I got my hair cut.  I woke up this morning looking like Medusa, then I couldn't be bothered straightening out my hair.  I went to work with it tied up in a pony tail, but looking boofy.  By the afternoon I was fed up with it and went to the hairdresser on my break and got it cut.  She didn't do as good a job as my last hairdresser but it was better than when I went in for sure.  I am happy with it for now, but I think I will go back to Laurie next time.  He made my hair look fantastic!

I don't have a workout to post today.  I got up a little too early then went back to bed and when the time came for me to actually go to the gym, I was all dozy and couldn't get up.  I will have to do both my workouts tomorrow - focusing on clean & press and deadlift.

Ta ta until then!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More Daisy Pictures

Sleepy Bunny

Checking out what Mum got from the vegetable shop
Sampling the goods....
....Om nom nom nom
....nom nom nom