Tuesday, 23 December 2008

I can't fit any more in!

Not only are the present lists well under way, the food lists now have come to the fore, because for some reason making one meal on Christmas Day with enough leftovers in the fridge to scavenge on until the supermarkets open again is a big deal. A big enough deal to send the entire female population into a food frenzy. And although I can rationalise that, can logically realise how silly it is to get sucked into all the panic, I do it again, like every year.
- The Secret Diary of a Grumpy Old Woman by Judith Holder

Our family Christmas parties are always filled with some kind of drama which is, I suspect, a common occurrence for most families. What is it about Christmas that brings out all this tension? Anyway, this year's party was no exception...but at least there was some good food!

My contribution was a tofukey since the idea always cracks me up. I found the recipe somewhere on the net last year (when it had its first outing) and basically it's a basic stuffing inside a tofu and nut mixture which is then spread with a marinade and baked in the oven.

Here's the tofukey served up with cashew gravy, roast veges, green salad (mostly grown in Mum's garden!) and pasta salad. My soy sauce I used this year was a bit strong so it tasted overly salty. Bit of a disappointment but a lesson for next time.

Of course, the main meal of the family Christmas party is dessert! My contribution, as always, was the famous trifle in it's chocolate form.

Basically it's a light chocolate cake spread with raspberry jam in the centre with fresh and tinned fruit on top of that (strawberries, pawpaw and a tin of mixed berries) topped with a thick chocolate custard and chocolate shavings. SO delicious!

Here's my HUGE dessert bowl (it's not often we get dessert so you've got to make the most of it!). I've got chocolate trifle, apple crumble and Christmas pudding (care of Mum...she is the pudding expert).

Friday, 19 December 2008

Not long to go...

Here in the trees it was much easier to believe the absurdities that embarrassed me indoors. Nothing had changed in this forest for thousands of years, and all the myths and legends of a hundred different lands seemed much more likely in this green haze than they had in my clear-cut bedroom.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I'm feeling a little jaded this afternoon. Tomorrow night is our family Christmas party so I've spent pretty much all of today in the kitchen preparing some of the food for the evening...but you'll have to wait until next time to find out what's on the menu! Of course, before ending up in the kitchen we got up not long after 5am for the final spin class of the year complete with champagne and strawberries! Then it was home to have breakfast of last night's tofu scramble. What a way to start the day!

This is actually last night's dinner but hey, breakfast looked pretty much identical so deal with it.

Anyway, on to more exciting things. Last Friday I got to meet Theresa from The Tropical Vegan for lunch as she was visiting Auckland for a conference! Being my usual self I was a nervous as anything but, as usual, there was nothing to worry about!

Meeting up in town meant the obvious place to go check out was Raw Power. Theresa ordered the Tofu Burger which I've talked about here. Despite being a fairly warm day, I had a craving for soup (needing comforting perhaps?!) so got their soup of the day, Curried Vegetable Soup served with focaccia bread and hummus. It was creamy and delicious. Washed down with one of their freshly made juices, it hit the spot perfectly.

Since you can't really go past dessert if it's offered I got a Caramel and Date slice (or at least that's what I think it was but I couldn't even remember by the time I'd decided what I'd wanted let alone now, a few days later!). We took our treats to enjoy in the sun (you have to make the most of it round here sometimes!) in Albert Park across the road from the university.

That evening we drove up to our family beach house at Wai Kauri Bay to escape for the weekend and enjoy the fine weather. As usual we had to check out the Matakana Farmer's Market on Saturday morning which included an On Yer Bike chocolate smoothie which you were supposed to blend yourself by riding this stationary bike attached to the blender. Unfortunately no amount of pedaling was getting my smoothie blended...I must have broke it!

In the afternoon we took our bikes over to Tawharanui Regional Park for a bit of adventuring (and a bit of scaring of the farm animals as we came flying past). We got some awesome views at the end of the peninsula looking all the way out to Little Barrier Island.

It may be summer now but that doesn't mean the water is warm and inviting for swimming but hey, all you gotta do is toughen up right? Anyway, after all the mountain biking in the hot sun, a little cold water never hurt anyone!

The jetty at Wai Kauri Bay

Monday, 8 December 2008

Take the Northern Gateway...it'll cost you $2

"It was simply marvellous. But, Laurie -" She stopped, she looked at her brother. "Isn't life," she stammered, "isn't life -" But what life was she couldn't explain. No matter. He quite understood.
"Isn't it, darling?" said Laurie.
- The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield

On Sunday we had the unique opportunity to bike the nearly-completed Northern Gateway, a new toll road North of Auckland bypassing the old route through Orewa and Waiwera. The motorway isn't scheduled to open until February next year but they opened the road for bikes (in the morning) and walkers (in the afternoon so they didn't get mowed down by us bikers!) for the day so we could get a closer look.

The Johnstone's Hill Tunnels

The new stretch of motorway is a pretty impressive feat of engineering combining design, engineering and attention to the environment (believe it or not!). The site of the motorway is home to native wildlife and special care were in place to minimise the impact on both flora and fauna along the route. The route crosses several main waterways and there are two eco-viaducts over some of the more sensitive areas.

Inside the Johnstone's Hill Tunnel

It was cool looking down the sides of the bridges to see lush plantlife rising up below and extensive revegetation is planned for other areas of the route.

Looking down the river towards Waiwera

My parents were walking the 14km round trip later in the day when it was so scorching hot that they got tar stuck to their shoes. They also got held up in huge traffic jams trying to get to and from the start of the motorway. The irony is of course that this motorway, designed to minimise traffic holdups, was causing them as curiosity got the better of everyone!

Cruising down the motorway.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Pineapple-coloured summers

They had both seen the lattice of streaky black clouds that climbed the horizon and scudded towards them, fleeing from the dying sun.
Lord of No Time by Louise Cooper

It's been a little while since we've had cake right? So it was about time for another birthday!

I doubled the recipe for the Pineapple Right-Side-Up cupcakes from
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. The centre is filled with a single batch of the pineapple topping and a toasted coconut cream cheese frosting. Then the top has more of the cream cheese frosting along with chopped dark chocolate, almonds, and some rather alcoholic cherries Mum had given me a while back. Delicious!

Of course, life isn't just about cake though (but that would be nice!)...

Lunch at my parents after raiding their pantry and freezer! Leftover veges and tofu luncheon on puff pastry. Unfortunately it stuck to the tray despite me spraying it first. Hmmm...

Although on the whole it's getting really hot and humid here, we still have the odd cold night. Corn Chowder after running home from work in the evening really warms you up (plus makes lots of leftovers for delicious lunches!). No recipe required...just my head as usual.

J had never had polenta before so it was time to whip up a batch with some stir-fried asparagus (I left J in charge of those...one has to delegate sometimes!) and baked tempeh (always a favourite). I cooked up the polenta in the morning, added some sun-dried tomatoes, smoked paprika and sheese, then chilled it in a pan until the evening when I cooked it in slabs over the fry pan.

As an aside, is it really December already? I don't think I'm ready for this!