Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Sore feet and good food

The tragedy of Melusina, whatever language tells it, whatever tune it sings, is that a man will always promise more than he can do to a woman he cannot understand.
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Oh man, where to begin!! Right, how about nachos? This was me proving to The Chef that they can indeed be (fairly) healthy and yet still delicious (as I recall he went back for seconds).

I was even awesome enough to cook my own beans for once! About time since Mum had given me a bag of dried organic kidney beans for Christmas and they've been sitting in the pantry ever since.

On the Saturday I competed in
The Dual off-road half marathon which (for anyone who knows the area) goes from Home Bay on Motutapu Island to Rangitoto Island and then back again with lots of big hills and epic rock sections.

Above is Home Bay and the final part of the hill you come tearing down (well, sort of since your legs feel a bit like jelly about now and my feet were killing me after the hellish rock sections).

This is Rangitoto Island from the ferry on the way home again. Rangitoto is the most recent volcanic cone in Auckland (there are something like 49 volcanic areas in the region) and the biggest. It's surface is all rough scoria rock with native bush somehow growing amongst it all. You run almost to the top before descending down a narrow, rocky track that flattens out at the bottom and winds around the edge of the island (for a grueling 6km) before heading back up and over Motutapu again to the finish.

This was my second time competing in this race and it went a whole lot better than last year! I was a bit more prepared for the section of hell (I think I passed at least 20 people somewhere amongst all that rock) and had an awesome run managing to get in the top 10 women despite still having a lingering cold and taking it easy. I guess it helps that I like hills and uneven terrain.

And because obviously I felt like I hadn't run up enough hills, on the Sunday we had orienteering out on one of the steepest maps we have in our area!

Quite spectacular and I almost wished I'd taken my camera out on the course (this is the view from the event centre.

Anyway, now I've bored you completely with sport we can return to food! I met my darling cousin D for lunch on Friday and after dithering all morning about where I wanted to eat we decided to go to Raw Power.

I wasn't feeling all that hungry so got a salad from the salad bar. They have a collection of different salads to pick from and you basically just fill up your bowl with what ever you want. Clearly I overdosed a little on the peanuts but it was delicious all the same, especially the pearl barley salad (which I think you can just see poking out on the left).

D got me a melting moment cookie too which was sitting there tempting me the whole time I was eating my salad so it had to be devoured straight away! SO good (but a little rich...sometimes I wonder what is happening to my tastebuds these days!).

Right, I have to race off and start packing for another adventure!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Blue moon adventures

This water gladdened the heart. It was something other than a mere beverage. Its sweetness was born of our march beneath the stars, of the pulley's song and the exertion of my arms. It was good for the heart, like a present.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

So really, when you have a bit of a cold the best way to recover is to rest, take care of yourself and keep warm right?

Hmmm...I'm not known to be good at resting or taking a break. Instead I travelled to
Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula with my trusty teammate O, and we embarked on a mega mission which was quite the opposite of all the ways one should look after oneself with a cold - the ARC Operation Blue Moon adventure race! You could expect nothing less really... Rest? Not happening. Taking care of myself? Well, that all depends on how you look at it right? Keeping warm? Well, I did have to swim (clothes, shoes, pack and all) at various points and tramp up a river so that also was not happening. I survived (clearly) but the cold is still lingering around which is frustrating with an off-road half this Saturday. Oh well, still a few days to get rid of it!

Anyway, onto real food ('cause you don't really want to hear about race food!)...

The Chef and I seem to eat out a lot (although it goes through fazes) but we tend to often go to the same places. We're pretty much regulars at
The Blue Bird 'cause it's always quick, has good food and is fairly healthy. Plus they sometimes have my favourite dish in the whole wide world (okay, that might be an exaggeration but I do love it) - the kumara chip-topped tofu spinach pies (try saying that 10 times fast!).

There's not a great deal of places I can go and get vegan dessert but you can rely on The Blue Bird for awesome crumble with soy ice cream. I have been known to come here for dinner and just eat hell of a big bowl of the stuff!

I thought it was about time I did another shoutout to the claypot place in Food Alley too which I regularly eat at with my cousin D. We are so regular that they know my order asking, "number 27?" every time either of us goes up to pay. Perhaps it's because the tofu dish is not ordered very regularly?

Across from the claypot place is the fresh juice place. D has her regular order but I like to mix it up every now and then.

This is rockmelon and apple. Really good and I like how you can see them juicing everything while you wait.

But I do still cook! I think I like home-cooked meals the best personally but going out is still fun. One of my flatmates described my cooking style as chilled out which, although made me laugh, is probably true. She was referring to the way The Chef was watching me cook and that I wasn't to let him change my style. I'm too lazy anyway so there's not much chance of that. But if he can teach me how to chop things faster then I'll be thrilled...sometimes it's all about timesaving! This is a good example...tofu stir-fry with boiled then fried potatoes. I've never pressed tofu in my life. I generally drain it and squeeze some of the liquid out with a paper towel. Then marinating. My tofu would be extremely lucky to get marinated for more than an hour. It's still delicious!

But basically I get home and ponder what I'm feeling like eating then open the fridge and pantry and see what's there and off we go. Then I just chuck in a little bit of this and a little bit of that and generally wing (almost) every time!

Hmmm, this post is a tad disjointed...sorry about that. My head is all over the place going at a million miles an hour! Anyway, The Chef is cooking me dinner tonight so I should get to relax ☺

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

It's a cheezy life

It had all happened too quickly for thought, ruined in January, married in February, on a boat to the tropics by March. The future had seemed unimportant compared to the exigencies of the present.
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig

It's been all go round here and more than a little stressful. I need more sleep...or more hours in the day! It's less than a week now till the first of a run of big races all in a row. Time to start getting a bit more sleep and making sure I've got all the gear. First up is
this. It's gonna rock!

Anyway, the other night The Chef was round for dinner and I felt inspired to make something more exciting than stir-fry which seems to have been the staple of late. I decided on something I haven't made in, well, ages when I think about it, Vegan Mac n'Cheez, using a halved version of
this recipe.

I ditched the 2 pot method and just mixed the ingredients for both sauces in one pot and it seemed to work fine. I also added some fried up onion. For some reason it just wasn't as exciting and delicious as I remember it being but then again I think my tastebuds have changed a lot since then. That's not saying it wasn't tasty but I guess I'm not such a fan of something so creamy anymore. It's still going to be my go-to mac and cheese recipe though.

The salad was ridiculous...The Chef had brought round a beetroot from his garden and we grated the whole thing so the challenge was to eat all of it (which was a HUGE mound). You can't see just how much is there from the photo since it's hidden near the bottom but just take my word for it. Ah well, fresh grated beetroot is amazing but it gave me a stomach ache afterwards.

Afterwards we curled up on the couch with my flatmates and started watching
The Great Gatsby. I was most upset that I fell asleep after about 5 minutes 'cause I was so exhausted. Will have to try and watch it again another time!

Oh, and one last thing...if you're in Auckland go down to The Library cafe and check out the new vegan option on the menu (as lobbied for by The Chef). I'd tell you what it is but my memory is terrible...all I remember was it was something to do with quinoa. I haven't been yet to try it out but I'll review when I finally get a chance.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

The ultimate sugar coma

'While I was asleep I dreamed I was a snowflake again, a tiny flat Peter-Paul tissue of snow with zigzags of air, like melting lace, binding the edges of my body, and I was tucked up in the sky under a soft blanket of cloud and there was no thought of conquering the earth of the sea and no idea that I would ever be a snowman witnessing the comings and goings of people upon their curiously snow-white earth.'
You Are Now Entering the Human Heart by Janet Frame

My flatmates are really good friends with The Chef so last night we decided to have a little dinner party for a few of their friends at my flat. The decision was to have a 3 course meal with a palate cleanser in between each course. The catch? It was going to be 3 courses of dessert!! Everyone joked that it ended up being more like 5 courses (6 if you count the crackers, hummus and sundried tomatoes that someone else brought round). Epic!

The first course was waffles with fruit which I was placed in charge of. You see, when I was in high school I was a bit of a waffle queen. Our group of friends used to have sleepovers all the time and I would often make waffles in the morning for everyone. Anyway, I ended up making the Old-Fashioned Chelsea Waffles from
Vegan Brunch but used agave instead of barley malt and added cinnamon.

Pardon the lighting...whoever designed this place clearly favoured mood lighting over being able to see! Anyway, the waffles were a great success with everyone but I think I prefer a more flavourful waffle personally.

The second course was the chocolate course...very important in a dessert extravaganza! This one was a team effort. I made the Ultimate Brownies from
The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes (yep, this is the 3rd time I've made these in a rather short space of time...they are THAT good!) which The Chef topped with a chocolate and hazelnut mixture based on the lemon cashew filling from Vegan Brunch and then a kind of chocolate sorbet that he didn't end up freezing 'cause he decided it tasted really good still runny.

It was incredible...but SO rich! I struggled to eat it all but it was so good so every little mouthful was going in my stomach no matter what! The consensus around the table was that this was the favourite of all the courses. It's always hard to beat chocolate.

The final course was, thankfully, the fruit course otherwise I suspect no one would have been able to handle it! The Chef was in charge of this. He made poached peaches with hazelnut praline and it was incredibly delicious. Oh man, so good and a perfect way to finish off the meal.

Oh yeah, and in between each course we had grapefruit sorbet to cleanse the palate! Classy!

It got a bit runny after awhile but it was still so good. The grapefruits are off our tree but we never really eat them so we dumped The Chef with a huge bag a few weeks ago and this is what he did with them. Quite possibly the best sorbet I've ever had (and I've tried quite a few).

I was feeling a tad ill and in a bit of a sugar coma this morning after last night so breakfast was a tofu scramble with lots of veggies and toast.

Ah, a perfect recovery meal. Might be a while before I feel like dessert again!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Raw beaches and lanterns

One can spot a fellow musician in any context, even amongst policemen.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

My lovely cousin D decided she wanted to compete in a running race and chose the 6km
North Shore Coastal Classic as her first attempt and I accompanied her round the course. She did an amazing job, running almost the whole way while I talked my head off and probably drove everyone else around us a little crazy! It was a nice gentle cruise for me which was a good recovery after the day before and the weather was glorious so all in all it was a good day.

Anyway, after the race I whipped us up some food from her Christmas present to me, Ani's Raw Food Kitchen (admittedly we only just exchanged gifts last week 'cause we're a bit behind the times!). First up was a scramble using the Love the Chicks Pate as the base with diced tomato, capsicum, avocado and baby spinach.

This was the recipe that caught my eye when I first picked this book up ages ago on a typical browse in Borders and I knew it was the first thing I wanted to make when I got the book. It was super easy to make (chuck everything in the food processor and off you go then stir in your veggies...easy as pie) and tasted really good but it was very rich especially after all that time out in the sun and we didn't end up eating that much.

The second course was the Coconut Breakfast Cakes with maple syrup and melon. I ended up using LSA instead of ground flaxseed and mixed in chopped walnuts and blueberries too.

Now these were delicious which totally surprised me 'cause when I first read the ingredients I couldn't understand how they could taste good. The LSA I used (and the flaxseed I buy) is obviously a much darker colour to what she used 'cause mine came out a lot darker than the picture but oh well! I will definitely make these again and mix up the ingredients and additions even more.

On Sunday night The Chef and I hit up the Lantern Festival at Albert Park in the city (along with his family and the entire population of Auckland it seemed!). I wish I'd taken my camera 'cause we got some awesome (and crazy) food and there were some beautiful lights. Veg "chicken" nuggets, veg "corn dogs" (ewww!), BBQ corn, banana leaf rice with bean curd, vietnamese spring rolls (also not that crash hot unfortunately) and freshly squeezed orange juice. There was so much more to try too but my stomach was too full by then!

Anyway, it's the year of the tiger and tigers are my favourite animal so that rocks (and the tiger lantern was beautiful - you can see a closeup of its face