Sunday, 28 September 2008

In search of perfection

There are always good reasons to have a day job, and there are great reasons to quit your day job, but why don't more people consider simply changing their day jobs?
- The Lost Soul Companion by Susan M. Brackney

What is the perfect breakfast?

I am incredibly undecided on this. On one hand there are beautiful, chocolaty pancakes with almond butter and refreshing fruit.

But on the other hand we have a fresh grapefruit straight off the tree with a sprinkling of sugar. Beautifully sour and sweet at the same time.

Or then there's fresh girdle scones filled with dried figs and roasted cashews and smothered in market jam?

I can't decide! Can I have everything?!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Amongst the mangroves

She places her telephone calls as if she were raising a ransom - quick, it's a matter of life and death."
- from The Island of the Mapmaker's Wife by Marilyn Sides

Last weekend J and I checked out the North Western cycle route for the first time. This route follows along beside the North Western motorway for over 10km and starts, as we discovered, about 100 metres from our apartment!

We cycled out to Avondale and checked out the bike store there (got some new socks and the sales guy convinced us we needed Merida gloves to match our Merida bikes instead of our Giant ones! So now I have half-finger baby pink ones to match my camelbak and helmet...but not the bright green of the bike!) then discovered it was well and truly lunch time and we had nothing with us to eat. Conveniently there was a cafe right next door so we went there. I ordered a custom pizza with mushrooms, capsicum, cashews and mango chutney. It was truly delicious (or perhaps that was because I was so hungry!) so perhaps we will have to cycle out that way at lunchtime more often!

The coolest thing about the cycle way is the section right next to the motorway where it crosses over the estuary and you're riding right next to the mangroves. I've driven along this stretch of motorway in rush hour a few times and been extremely jealous of the cyclists and runners whizzing past so it was cool to finally experience it myself.

I've always found mangroves to be pretty special...I love the way they grow up through the mud and when the tide comes in only the tips of the trees are visible. My brother once made a picture book about living in amongst the mangroves and I always imagine the drawings in his story coming to life whenever I see the mangroves rising up out of the mud. I do have to admit though I once did a rogaine where we ended up, well, very deep in mud amongst the mangroves and I can't honestly say at that point I found them very special at all!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Shall you be 19 or 61 today?

"You can only see things clearly with your heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye."
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

There is no reprise from celebration…!

It was my sister-in-law’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, Mum’s last week and Father’s day thrown in there somewhere too. We went round to my parents’ on the Friday to celebrate all three of those recent September occasions (can we throw in a celebration for spring as well?!). Since it was such a momentous occasion (okay, just a couple of birthdays and a rather belated Father’s day) we needed a pretty impressive cake.

It wasn’t until about 5 minutes before I started cooking (at some ungodly hour of the evening the night before) that I’d worked out what I was going to make…a 4 layered chocolate/coconut cake adapted from several different recipes (the chocolate part was mostly a smaller version of the Black Forest Chocolate Cake in Damn Tasty Vegan Baking Guide but the coconut part was a sort of ‘make it up on the spot’ kind of thing).

On transporting it to Mum’s it moved under our makeshift cover and upon lifting the lid I nearly freaked out to discover it on the far side of the plate on a rather scary angle. Luckily it had held together so well that it was fairly easy to slide back to the centre of the plate but I was definitely worried for a moment.

Mum joked that she could be 19 with this cake (turn the numbers round upside down)!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

In the kitchen I shall be

All the earliest authors are anonymous. A legendary name, an Orpheus or Taliesin, serves as a conjectural origin, a myth to shroud the namelessness of our culture’s beginnings. Although anonymity is still practiced, it is as a ruse to conceal Deep Throats, both investigative and pornographic. It is a choice, whereas for generations of writers so absolutely lost that no line, no title, no name survives, it is a destiny thrust upon them. They might write, and struggle, and edit, and polish, yet their frail papers dissipate, and all their endeavor is utterly erased.
- The Book of Lost Books (An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You'll Never Read) by Stuart Kelly

What a change from last may actually believe spring is here now. The sun is out and I am actually sitting in the office in just a t-shirt (okay, I'm wearing jeans and shoes as well so don't get too excited). The daylight hours are getting longer which means when we leave our early morning spin class (it finishes at 6:50am...don't ask when it starts or what time we get up to go to it) the sun is out which makes the whole process that little bit easier to bear.

That extra bit of daylight makes the evening feel longer too and cooking feels a little less like a chore. So what has been happening in our kitchen of late?

Baked tempeh with mixed stir-fried veges and sheese scones. Kinda random but we always have rice or pasta so I thought I'd mix it up a bit and I had some
Sheese needing using up (I am addicted to the stuff!).

Kumara chips, stir-fried veges and some random tofu and vegetable chunk
things that I found in the freezer section at the back of good old Lim Chhour. They are actually quite tasty but, well, were in need of some kind of sauce as we discovered.

I've eaten lots of curries before but I've never actually cooked one myself (I know, I can't believe it either). So here we have my very first green tofu curry. The green curry paste I used was pretty potent so there were lots of running noses but it was delicious and I can't believe it's taken me this long to make a curry! There
will be more...

Homemade falafel with veges and hummus wrapped in a sundried tomato tortilla then baked in the oven. Quick, easy and very filling.

I thought I'd try my hand at baked kumara after so many
good experiences at Raw Power. Mine was stuffed with corn, fried onion and sheese (surprise surprise!). It turned out really good. We had the kumaras with stir-fried mushrooms and capsicum and some random vegetarian patties I had found whilst browsing at Harvest Wholefoods and had forgotten I'd stowed away in the freezer.

I wanted spelt fruit muffins on Saturday but I was not in a position to leave the house to go get some so, well, I had to make some. Luckily I had spelt flour on hand…but no fruit. J went across the road in search of tinned pears but to no avail so we had to settle for tinned peaches. Didn’t quite work as well taste-wise but still good. So here we have Ginger and Peach spelt muffins adapted from this recipe at Vegan Yum Yum.

It made 6 BIG muffins (perfect for lazy breakfasts and quick lunches). I added some cinnamon, ginger and a mashed banana (‘cause there was one in our freezer that needed using before the big move…).

And nothing is complete without chocolate so I whipped up a batch of Celine’s Peanut Butter Cups. Amazingly easy and very delicious (although, do not eat these if you are feeling a bit sick and your stomach is not at its best as they are very rich…I tell you this from first-hand experience).

Monday, 8 September 2008

Take me to the market

The death moment was at hand now. Again and again Inigo thrust forward, and again and again the man in black managed to ward off the attacks, but each time it was harder, and the strength in Inigo's wrists was endless and he only thrust the more fiercely and soon the man in black grew weak. "You cannot tell it," he said then, "because I wear a cape and mask. But I am smiling now."
"Because I'm not left-handed either," said the man in black.
And he too switched hands, and now the battle was finally joined.
And Inigo began to retreat.
- The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Apparently it's spring...try telling that to the weather. It's pouring with rain, the wind is wild and the temperature has dramatically dropped again! But we did manage to squeeze in one week of spring before the bad weather hit again!

J and I decided to escape the city for the first weekend of spring when the weather was actually nice and test our bikes out at Tawharanui Regional Park, over the hill from my family's beach house at Wai Kauri Bay. But first, we had to go and explore the Matakana Farmer's Market. Despite being only about 15 minutes drive from the beach house I have only gone to the market a handful of times. There is heaps of fresh, organic vegetables, homemade chutneys and james, fresh bread, oils, wine...lots to see and taste.

We explored the river's edge while savoring sorbets in the first warmth of the spring sun. J was determined to find the killer eels that the sign post promised but we had no luck!

A little further down the road is the Matakana Country Park Market. Mum always gets sidetracked here with all the garden sculptures and art. Look at what we found at the market..a buzzy cow!! Classic! We also reverted back to childhood and played with toy blocks!

So what did we pick up at the farmer's market in the end?

Here we have feijoa wine, feijoa and apple juice, organic macadamia butter, an organic pumpkin, an organic avocado, an organic and gianormous capsicum, organic ginger rocky road and a pear, prune and walnut chutney. Yeah, we got a bit carried away!

After lunch we took the bikes over to the reserve (walking them up the hill from the bay was one heck of a challenge...there was no way I was going to try biking up that hill!) and I finally got to test out riding clipless with my new mountain bike shoes (the weirdest name I've ever heard...despite knowing why they are called clipless pedals it doesn't make sense as you have to clip your shoes into the pedals so, therefore, they should be clip pedals). There was a lot of yelling of frustration and several bruises but in the end I finally managed to work it all out. J clearly has A LOT of patience!

Above is my bike on the deck of our beach house afterwards...we had to put the normal pedals back on as I wasn't game enough to try riding along the gravel road in them in case I, well, fell off and forgot to unclip!

It was a pretty exhausting day and by the time we got back from the ride we were in desperate need of a shower and a hot dinner. Unfortunately not all plans end up how you want them to and we couldn't get the hot water cylinder for the bathroom going so had to wash ourselves down with a bucket of hot water from the kitchen!

At least we still had power though so a hot dinner was definitely on the cards. Roasted kumara chips, delicious curried vegetable pies and fresh salad with a squirt of lemon juice (lemons straight off the tree from outside) and chutney from the market...perfect!

The following morning J took his bike over to the reserve to explore some more while I ran the tracks. Tawharanui has a maze of tracks through the farmland and native bush and having spent hours of my childhood exploring the place I know it like the back of my hand.

On returning it was, again, a wash using a bucket before sitting down for lunch. The previous night I'd roasted up the pumpkin while making the kumara chips so with the roasted pumpkin (it was beautifully sweet and rich) I whipped up a pumpkin and peanut butter soup. Although I was lacking in all the usual things I'd add to the soup to add flavour it still tasted delicious. Marmite mixed in hot water makes a great vegetable stock!

Here's the view from our deck at Wai Kauri Bay. It's like being in paradise. I spent a lot of my childhood up here in the holidays and weekends...swimming, kayaking, exploring the hills and forests, making sandcastles...ah, it's making me dream of summer now!