Thursday, 25 July 2013

I'll do it! (Apart form the bits I don't like..)

Isn't it fabulous that we are happy to wholeheartedly accept an idea until an aspect of it makes our life more difficult.

Like religion: Yes, I'm a Christian, but no, I don't agree with their thoughts on gay marriage. You may make the point that religion is open to interpretation and there are so many ideas out there so what else can we do, really?

But what about our health? 'Yes, I won't eat sugar, except in chocolate. And fruit. And the odd piece of cake. Every night. '

I've done this myself with the idea of eating for your blood type (see: Eat Right 4 Your Type). I am blood type O. I have read the type O food recommendations list and was pretty motivated whilst I read the sections that said I shouldn't eat wheat but spelt and rye are ok (my preferred grains). And the columns for dairy and eggs say we should avoid all - well that's ok with me! This list is so relevant - absolutely I should avoid all of the foods they suggest!

And then I reached the nut and seed column. Peanuts are bad. Hmm, is this really right? Lentils are bad. This information probably hasn't been well researched.. No avocados. Nor cinnamon. Ridiculous! This list is rubbish and of course I shouldn't follow it!

I have seriously had this conversation with myself about 5 times over the last year.

I read it again tonight and laughed at myself for my silliness. Hang on a second - sometimes lentils make my stomach hurt. Corn irritates my skin..

Why do we only like to take part in convenient things, ignoring the clear facts in front of us? Interesting.

Friday, 5 July 2013

My Home

I have been inspired by a post on Mrigank Warrier's blog titled 'Home Alone'.

Home is where my brother and I may hate and love each other simultaneously. Home is were the last biscuit or control of the remote (me-mote) allows us to strangle each other, and where we can snuggle in front of the heater when our favourite cartoons are on.

Home is where you can run outside to the washing line in nothing but your underwear, and where it is acceptable to wear your pyjamas from morning to night. Home is where it's ok to yell out "I NEED MORE LOO PAPER!!" and expect someone to come running.

Home is dropping a piece of food on the floor and letting the dog clean it up. Where you can tell the cook you don't like your dinner and them tell you to suck it up and eat it anyway. Home is where chores are dreaded, result in shouting matches, but somehow always get done.

Home is freshly brewed coffee, ready when you crawl out of bed in the morning. Home is the place you can ignore everyone around you when you're overtired and hunting for breakfast.

Home is a place you can cry and be held. Home is where you can be ANGRY and hate people and that be ok. At home you can be rude and short. Home is where you're forgiven.

Home is snuggles on the couch under a blanket for Friday night movies. Home is hugs for no reason at all.

Home is no boys in the bedroom! Doors open at all times! Home is keep your room clean (no one ever sees it!).

Home is rushed dinners as family flys in and out of the door. Home always has dinner ready, set aside and ready to heat. Home is sharing. Home is calling everyone to ask who would like a lift home. Home is notes on the table when you wake up - Hang out the washing! Don't eat my cake! Have a nice day! I love you!

Home is flowers picked from the garden. Breakfast in bed of cold coffee and too much vegemite. Home is playdough. Home is the colouring tin. Home is made up games that you make your brother play with you.

Home is creeping into each others bedrooms to steal a pair of socks. Home is sharing jumpers and trying to figure out who's shoes are who's.

Home is always open. Always welcoming, and always warm. Home is saying grace before we eat, and having enough for drop-ins. Home is forgiving and forgetting. Home is where you can be yourself. Home is where we belong.

Juice Cleanse!

A juice cleanse can be quite controversial - is it really necessary? Or a good idea at all?

Recently I have battled my third year uni exams, then took a week away to recuperate. What did this mean? That I have eaten a whole lot of crap over the last month. I felt heavy (had put on more than a couple of kilos), my skin was protesting, I was exhausted (ok, that's probably not food related with the hours I've been doing) and just felt yuck. I looked into some detox ideas to get myself back on track and was convinced to give a juice cleanse a go.

I've been considering getting a new food processor for a while now and came across the Philips 3-in-1 Kitchen MACHINE! Not only is this glorious piece of equipment a food processor, but a blender and JUICER all in one! (Well.. not all in one. But you get all three attachments for the single motor - which I figured is a great space and money saver).

So juicing was not only likely to help cleanse my body of the toxins that fast food and laziness has put in over the last few weeks, but give me a fantastic reason to buy this beautiful piece of equipment ;)

How does a juice cleanse work?
Most information I found suggests 3 days of juice fasting, not to be done more than four times a year.
Alternatively, juice 'till dark: consume only juices until dinner time, then eat a full (smaller than usual as your stomach will have shrunk) meal, consisting of mostly vegetables.
So for these three days consume only fruit and vegetables in the form of juice. You need to give yourself some nutrients every 2-3 hours, which means about 6 juices a day.

I selected the following guide for my juice planning:
Breakfast: Green juice
Morning tea: Green juice
Lunch: Fruit based juice
Afternoon tea: Coconut water
Dinner: Vegetable based juice
After dinner: Cinnamon-spiced nut milk

Because I'm in the lovely world of uni holidays I've been sleeping until 11am each day, so I omitted the second morning green juice.

And how did I go? What did I actually eat?
Day 1
Breakfast: Basic green juice
2 cups spinach
5 stalks celery
1 cucumber
1/4 lemon

Lunch: Strawberry Limeade
1 cup strawberries
1 lime
1 cucumber

Afternoon tea: Coconut water

Dinner: Radish juice
3 carrots
4 tomatoes
1 radish

Supper: Almond milk with cinnamon

To encourage my detox I had a sauna in the evening to sweat those toxins out!

Day 2:
Breakfast: Spring green
1/2 lemon
1 apple
1 bunch kale
4 celery sticks
1/4 bunch parsley

Lunch: Appleberry
1 cup mixed berries
1 apple
1/4 cucumber
1/4 lemon

Afternoon tea: Coconut water

Dinner: Pumpkin Pie Juice - My new favourite juice!!
1/2 a raw butternut pumpkin
1 apple
dash of cinnamon

Supper: Almond milk with cinnamon

Day 3:
Breakfast: Grapefruit-Zuc Juice
(I had left my celery, cucumber and spinach at a friends house so I got creative)
1/2 grapefruit
1/2 apple
1/4 lemon
1/2 zucchini (yep! they're great!)
bunch of greens, mostly endive

Lunch: Blueapple Juice
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 apple
1/2 zucchini (if I had a cucumber I would have used it here instead)

I had lunch on day 3 at about 3pm, at 5pm the sun had gone down and I felt ready to move into solids.
I had a teaspoon of pumpkin puree that I was using to prepare something for later in the week, and gave that an hour or so to process. Then I was drawn by some cupcakes that I had made to give my sister tomorrow.. probably not the best idea but they were vegan and sugar free cupcakes, and I only had a small one - promise!

For dinner I'll have a small veggie pattie and some celeriac lentils. I've made sure to keep this meal small as I don't want to overload my shrunken stomach!

How do I feel now?
Good. Clean. Lighter. My skin actually looks happier even after three days!

Pulp Patties
What to do with all that juice pulp?!
When you juice fruit and veggies you're left with a whole lot of pulp - the fibre you're giving your body a break from. I couldn't bring myself to throw these away - although they would make fantastic compost if you're happy to do that - so I got creative.

Pulp Patties
Combine about 2 cups of left over veggie pulp (from green or veg juices are best) with about a tbsp of olive oil, 1 tin of lentils, salt, pepper and cumin. Mix together with your fingers, then spread into a baking dish and bake for about 30-40 minutes at about 180C, until just brown around the edges. Let cool a little, then cut into round patties. If not eating straight away cut into patties just before eating fry (no oil should be needed) until heated through. Serve with a luscious garden salad or in a small burger bun!

Pulp Cupcake
Combine 1 1/2 cups SR flour with 2 tbsp oil. Add 2 mashed bananas (frozen and defrosted work well) and about 1 1/2 cups of fruity pulp (from berry juices work great - I used the pulp from my Blueapple with Zucchini Juice). Add 2 tbsp of almond milk to make a wet cupcake consistency, pour into patty pans and bake at 170C for about 20 minutes, until an inserted knife comes out clean. Eat as is, or combine a little icing sugar and lemon juice to glaze the tops.

Pulp Soup
Add left over veggie pulp to soups to thicken them
and add some nutrition!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Vegan Caramel Slice

If I miraculously found out that I had exquisite health and was asked what my secret was, I had have to put it down to the insane amounts of coconut products I consume.

I have coconut for breakfast: oats cooked in water with a big dollop of coconut cream added after cooking makes deliciously creamy prorridge.

I have coconut for lunch: thai green curries are my favourite.

I have coconut for afternoon tea: with a slosh of almond milk, cocoa and peanut butter to make a fabulous hot chocolate.

I have coconut for dinner: coconut oil makes a great fat substitute when cooking.

And now, ladies and gentleman, I have coconut for dessert.

Yes, you did read the title of this post correctly: Vegan. Caramel. Slice.

I did it!

A recipe for my easy dairy-filled traditional caramel slice can be found here.
It's my boyfriend's favourite and that reciple always makes him demolish my stock (unless I disappear off to Europe and he realises he will be without all my cooking for a couple of months..).

But *I* miss caramel slice! *I* like it too! So I've finally done it. Caramel slice that we vegans can eat too!

p.s. the secret was making the caramel work!

Oooey, gooey, vegan caramel

Vegan Caramel Slice
fills a lamington pan - note: this makes equivalent to 1 1/2 times my non-vegan recipe

1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar
175g vegan margarine, melted - this probably works with coconut oil as a substitute!

Preheat oven to 180C.
Whisk the first 4 ingredients together in a medium bowl, then add the melted butter substitute. Mix well and press into a baking paper-lined lamington tin. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes - until the colour changes to bronze shade (trust yourself - but be careful not to forget about it!).

Let your base cool completely before adding the caramel layer.

I suggest you complete this step first as it takes the longest.
2 x 300g tins of full-fat coconut cream - just the cream portion: keep your tins of coconut cream in the fridge and the cream will solidify in the can, then run off the liquid and use in other cooking. (If you live in Tasmania just keep it in your cupboard and it will solidify..).

1 1/2 cups of brown sugar

In a medium saucepan (not small!) add the coconut cream and heat until it's completely liquid. Add the brown sugar and whisk until the liquid is brown.

Whisk continuously until uniformly brown

Bring to the boil and keep boiling on medium-high heat for about 45 minutes until it is obviously thicker.
Whisk every 4-5 minutes to prevent overflow!
You will need to whisk the pan about every 4 minutes, just a few stirs - apart from this you can let it do its thing while you complete the base/check your emails/update your blog..

Caramel will darken and thicken as it cools
Let the caramel cool completely before pouring it evenly over the top of your base. Let it set in the fridge for a while.
Mmmmm, caramel...

300g dark (dairy free!) chocolate

Melt the chocolate and pour over the caramel layer. Immediately use the baking paper to lift the slice out of the pan and slice with a clean knife. Keep some paper towel handy to wipe your knife every couple of slices to stop crumbs sticking to the chocolate.

Enjoy, naughty vegans ;)

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


I'm ready!
What would be the point of posting my delicious ANZAC biscuit recipe AFTER ANZAC day?

I had to get ready a couple of days early this year with the insane study load that I have at the moment, so last night my kitchen was filled with my off-key voice singing "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" and smells of golden syrup and oatey goodness.

I made two batches: one chewy (my favourite) and one crunchy (my grandad's favourite).

My chewy recipe is one I've been using for a few years now that makes beautifully chewy cookies with just enough crisp around the edges to munch on.

I have a 1970's copy of The Australian and New Zealand Complete Book of Cookery and where else should one turn to find an ANZAC recipe?! The crunchy biscuits from here were thin and crunchy but seemed to have less flavour than my chewy biscuits. Still fabulous, however, and I'm yet to give my grandad any to taste test so we shall see!

The two recipes are very similar - the same ingredients with different amounts of butter, sugar and golden syrup is all.

Chewy ANZAC Biscuits
1 cup plain flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup oats
3/4 cup brown sugar

125g butter (I used Nuttelex original)
2 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp water
1 tsp bicarb soda

Preheat oven to 160C.
Stir the butter, syrup and water over low heat in a medium saucepan until melted, then add bicarb soda.
Mix together dry ingredients (I like to use a whisk to do this to remove my sugar lumps).
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix to make a sticky but firm batter.

Place small tablespoons of mixture onto a baking paper lined tray and cook for 10 - 20 minutes until golden around the edges. Makes about 24 large biscuits.

Crunchy ANZAC Biscuits
From The Australian and New Zealand Complete Book of Cookery
1 cup plain flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup oats
1 cup brown sugar

4 oz (110g) butter (again, I used Nuttelex original)
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp bicarb soda

Preheat oven to 160C.
Stir the butter and syrup over low heat in a medium saucepan until melted, then combine boiling water and bicarb and add it to the saucepan.
Mix together dry ingredients, then add wet mixture to the dry and stir until sticky but firm!

Place teaspoons of mixture onto a baking paper lined tray and cook for 20 minutes until golden. Makes 48 small biscuits.

The cook book specified teaspoons and I liked the smaller size (normal size..) of these biscuits. The book also said 20 minutes and mine were cooked in 20 minutes exactly!

Lest we forget.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Breakfast Coconut Cake

In Tasmania the seasons change every few minutes so you can never rely too heavily on the usual month-season relationship. This year, however, the summer was ripper hot and has stuck around for the first half of autumn. Then suddenly, smack bang in the middle-most week of autumn a cold snap occurred and we've got snow on the mountains and everyone has their puffer jackets on!

It also means that everyone is sick this week. Me included. I woke up this morning knowing that it was going to be a very slow and groggy weekend for me.. and all I could think about was a bowl of smoking hot custard to run down my throat. I don't remember the last time I ate custard so that was pretty weird.. I decided instead to give myself a heart-warming pikelet stack with baked fruit.

The recipe I used was about as successful as trying to tell my nose to stop running today.. what a flop.

Solution? Bang it in a baking dish and bake it in a hot oven for an hour! Andddd.... IT WORKED!

This cake isn't dense enough to slice on a plate so I suggest serving it in a mug or bowl with a good dollop of coconut cream and a teaspoon of rice malt syrup or honey :)

 Coconut Breakfast Cake with Apricots and Almonds
1/2 cup Coconut flour
1/2 tsp Baking powder
3 Chia eggs (3 tbsp ground chia seed + 9 tbsp warm water)
3 cups Milk (I used oat because I'd run out of almond - almond is probably best!)
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Coconut oil

Dried apricots (about 12)
Almonds (about a handful)

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Whisk chia seed into warm water and set aside for 10 minutes to get thick.
2. Mix milk, chia eggs and melted coconut oil together.
3. Add flour, baking powder and salt - mix together well.
4. Pour into a small loaf tin, then drop apricots and almonds evenly over the mixture and let them sink in. Bake in the oven for about an hour.

Serve with a dollop of coconut cream and a tsp of rice malt syrup (or honey, agave or maple syrup!)

This was exactly what I need to warm me from the inside out :) Happy winter!

Dad's Vege Soup

My dad runs the kitchen in my family home and will always have dinner on the table for us when we come home. We may not all be there at the same time, or even on the same night, but there is always something saved aside when we need it.
He's certainly not a culinary expert and has no chance on winning any prizes for 'plating up', but we've taught him to cook nutritious food that almost always tastes just right.

This soup is like my family: a tad rough around the edges but crammed full - guaranteeing something for everyone. (Not an easy feat with 7 children, 4 grandchildren and tonnes of extra people always stopping by).
This soup lets you empty your refrigerator of anything you no longer find appealing or have no idea how to cook! It warms you from the inside out in winter and is surprisingly refreshing on a hot summers day (when I started writing this post it was 30C and I had just enjoyed a bowl!). The best thing about this soup though is that it only contains fresh, healthy ingredients so you can enjoy thirds if you like and still not feel guilty!

I make this soup when I'm sick and request it when I've had a tough week. It's great re-heated for lunch the next day and I'm sure it would freeze fine - though I haven't tried it. I don't know how to make small quantities (I never can with soup), but even if I could it wouldn't help in sharing the recipe. 
Dad's Vege Soup
makes one big pot
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
Herbs, dried or fresh
Salt and pepper
Whatever vegies you can find in your fridge from beetroot leaves to brussels sprouts, but here are some of our favourites:
Sweet potato
Brussels sprouts
ok, this is stupid - they all work well!

Fry your onion and garlic (or not if you don't have any) in the bottom of a large saucepan until soft. Add your herbs and fry for a minute to release the flavours. Add chopped vegies - we like our vegies big and chunky in this soup - and just cover with water. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to simmer. Add some salt and pepper and allow to simmer for as long as it takes for the vegies to become soft. Probably around 40 minutes, but we're not sure.

This soup can be reheated over the stove later if you've made it early or have lots of left overs, or by the bowl in a microwave.

My dad would add more salt at the end and say it's enjoyed best with a glass of his homemade stout, I on the other hand find it needs nothing but a big spoon. Enjoy!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Things I'm Loving Lately:

1. My Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Balm.
I don't think I have ever bought myself hand cream before this tube, and now I'm hooked.
I treated myself to this beauty whilst in London and have only just learnt it's an Australian company, ha.
The smell is divine - not so strong that I feel it is suck up my nose like I feel with most perfumes - the sensation on my skin makes me feel like a goodess and I notice I've been giving myself spontaneous hand rubs! 

It was way more expensive than I would ordinarily spend (I've never bought handcream, remember?) something like $40! But will last a long time and is a saviour to my dry and often eczema covered fingers.

2. ZUU!

Do you ZUU? You should!

... ZUU is based around "primal pattern" bodyweight exercises. They have been constructed into high intensity full body workouts with very specific sequences. Every workout targets all major & minor muscle groups while engaging both the aerobic & anaerobic energy systems. Basically that means every time you do a ZUU workout it will be one of the most comprehensive and intense experiences you'll ever do!
It's such an intense, hard work out. I always reach my fail point and have to take a moment to recover - it makes you move in ways you'd never believe to be so hard! Give it a go - it's super satisfying!

3. Blogs? Meghan Telpner's UnDiet Living and Angela Liddon's Oh She Glows
Meghan Telpner
Last week I mentioned my decision to let the 'diet plan' go. Finding Meghan's blog reinforced this idea. She has written a wonderful book UnDiet Living talks about letting go of this silly 'diet' idea that every second person seems to be forcing into our faces. It encourages us to eat whole, fresh, real food and understand what and why you're eating it! It's fabulous and I'm trying to keep her philosophy alive and present in my mind!

Oh She Glows
'Glow from the the inside out' is her motto and I love it. Oh She Glows has so many brilliant vegan recipes that promote healthy, nutritious and delicious eating! When I open her blog I feel myself become more motivated to be the best I can be - thanks Angela! 
Whilst flicking through her recipes I came across point 4...

4. Chocolate Chia Puddings - from Angela Liddon's Oh She Glows

This beautiful dessert is light and chocolatey. I would happily eat this in place of chocolate mousse! And what's better..? It's healthy enough to eat for breakfast! Which is what I did with some delicious breakfast cookies and a perfect cup of black coffee as you can see above. And maybe I had it for lunch as well.. Check out Angela's recipe HERE.
I used rice malt syrup for the sweetener to make it fructose free and only used chia, almond and cocoa powder (no carob .  You might notice the white layer on the top of two of my photographs - this is     from adding extra almond milk to that glass before refrigerating.

5. Walnuts in salad.
Close your eyes (not really - then you can't read this!) and imagine taking a mouthful of beautiful crispy green salad with soft mushrooms and chunks of cucumber.. You're loving it, but aware that it is just a whole lot of green stuff and something else might be a bit more satisfying... But it is tasty, and healthy, so you feel content. Then suddenly BAM!
What is that? Dessert? Your salad tastes like crumble? No? Cheesecake? No? Biscuits?!

You open your eyes and discover a weird brown brain looking thing staring at you. OH man, these babies transform that bowl of greenery into something decadent you cannot wait to eat.

I added them at the start of the week when I burnt a few when toasting them.. Burnt walnuts are good, but raw ones are delicious.

Yeah, yeah, we've had walnuts in salads before. But if you haven't had them for a while toss them in and take your salad to a new level.

My lunch this week looks like:
I'd show you a picture but I've already eaten it...
Heaps of torn mixed lettuce leaves
1/3 cucumber
2 mushrooms
Handful of green beans
Handful of crushed walnuts!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Who am I?

Why does my mind constantly argue with itself when it comes to food choices?
Am I incapable of saying no? Or am I forcing myself to make ridiculous decisions to stay 'in control'.
I have taught myself that I need a plan to be healthy, or face the consequences. This is not working.

A new plan? Have no plan.
Listen to my body and ignore my arguing, clouded brain. Leave my mind for more tedious university-related thoughts.. urgh.

It's time to let go and stop being so.. irritating.

My body definitely likes being sugar free. I will make this effort. The rest I will just let happen.

Hello, I'm Ally.

What I learned while being SUGAR-FREE
1. Less sweet food tasted sweeter.
2. I stopped craving chocolate. I don't need it to make it through an evening shift at work. Huh? Yep.
3. It's not that hard.
4. It feels good.
5. I don't have to cook special foods to make it work, I just have to make the right choices. And have a few handy snacks for emergencies.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

I am procrastinating

This is an old questionnaire I discovered circulating between Finnish food blogs. I was interested in reading other peoples answers so thought I would answer it myself (...and I don't want to continue with the study I'm doing).

How do you enjoy your coffee/tea?

Black. No sugar.
I want to taste the tea or coffee that I am drinking, not milky sweet stuff.

What's your favourite breakfast?

Fresh, homemade Flax and Sunflower Seed bread with a smothering of peanut butter, then mashed banana, then a heavy sprinkling of cinnamon, then a top slice of bread with a layer of honey. Placed under the grill. Oh my.

Peanut butter?

Give it to me, baby. On fresh white bread. With celery. With a spoon...

What kind of a dressing do you want with your salad?

None, please :)

Coke or Pepsi?

Coke zero. I can feel it eating away at my stomach lining.. why doesn't that stop me?

You're feeling lazy, what will you make?

Toast and peanut butter! For someone else? Proper macaroni and cheese.

You feel like cooking, what will you make?

I'll spend an hour searching through the millions of saved recipes I have.. Then produce something with lots of vegetables, cooked in my beautiful red casserole dish.

Does some dish give you bad memories?

Hmm, nope. Although mushy peas and spam give me a laugh.

Does some dish remind you of someone?

Mushy peas and spam? My grandparents. Pulla? My mummi. Thai green curry? My mum.

Is there a dish you would refuse to eat?

Lanttukukko (Swede rooster).

What was your childhood favourite food?

Pizza! I now work in a pizza store.. hmm. 
And mummi's Zucchini box :)

Is there a food you hated as a child but now love?

Olives and liquorice. And nuts.

Your favourite fruit and vegetable?

Mangoes and pumpkin.

Your favourite junk food?

Is chocolate in that category? I don't think it's junk! If not, liquorice allsorts.

Your favourite snack?

A muffin or piece of fruit.

Do you have any weird food habits?

I don't think so..

You're on a diet. What shall you eat?

Lots of salad.

You finished your diet. What would you like to have?

A massive bowl of rich chocolate mousse with rich chocolate cake with chocolate shavings. And some raspberries and tea so I'm not sick as well.

How hot do you order your Indian/Thai food?

Medium - hot.

Something to drink?

Water, please.

Red or white?


Your favourite dessert?

Is this really necessary? Chocolate.

The perfect nightcap?

A cup of tea, or three.

What's your first baking or cooking memory?

Making pulla in mummi's kitchen.
Actually, making birthday cakes for my dolls - a jam sandwiches with the crusts cut off, cut into a circle.

Who has most affected your cooking?


Do you have a photograph as an evidence from your early cooking?

No :(

Do you suffer from any sort of a cooking fear, does even a thought of cooking a certain dish make your hands sweat?

No! Usually I don't know it's supposed to be hard until I've done it.

What's your most used or valued kitchen utensil and/or your biggest disappointment when it comes to your kitchen utensils?

My bar-mix. And my rubber spatula always provides a high level of satisfaction. Thinking about my oven gives me a migraine.

Name a funny or weird food combination that you really like.

I cannot for the life of me thinking of anything. Though someone did tell me my love of peanut butter and banana was bizzare.

Coconut and jelly??

Name three eatables or dishes you just can't live without.

Chocolate. Coriander. Mushrooms.

What's missing from your cooking?

A new oven, damnit.

Finnish pleasures: Pulla

Every member of my family has grown up with the wonders of warm pulla. Fresh out of the oven or microwaved out of her freezer stores, Mummi's pulla will always warm you from the inside out. We have all visited Mummi and asked her to make pulla for multicultural days at school. Our Aussie friends may not understand the obsession we have with this divine bread, perhaps because they don't have a Mummi who pours her heart into each bun of scrumpciousness.

I do not know if this recipe is identical to the imprint inside my grandmothers head, but my six year old cousin consumed almost an entire batch of my pulla while he was visiting from Finland - language barriers aside, I'm pretty sure that's a stamp of approval!

I have adapted this recipe to be vegan. If you would like to use butter and eggs I have written the alternatives beside the ingredients I use. My (very) Finnish father can't tell the difference between vegan pulla and the dairy-filled version so don't worry about it skimping on authenticity!

Finnish Pulla - Korvapuusti
Step 1: Adorn Mummi slippers and apron.
500mL warm milk (I use almond, also works well with soy),
2 egg replacers: 2 tsp psyllium husk mixed with 6 tbsp boiled water
150g raw sugar (dextrose works well here for a fructose-free alternative)
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt

900g + 200g plain flour
3x7g sachets yeast (equivalent to 6 tsp)

200g vegan margarine (or butter)

Cinnamon, sugar and margarine for rolling

1. Mix warm milk, eggs, sugar, cardamom and salt together in a large mixing bowl until the sugar has dissolved.
Note: if your milk/egg mixture is too hot it will kill your yeast - if you have a thermometer test the mixture before proceeding to the next step - your wet mixture should ideally be 37°C.

2. Whisk 900g flour and yeast together.

3. Add flour to milk mixture a spoonful at a time. Combine using a spoon until a sticky dough consistency is reached, then ditch the spoon and knead with your hand. Continue kneading and adding flour until the dough comes off your hands - you may need to add some extra flour to achieve this, but also don't be concerned if you haven't used all the flour mix. I find it varies with each batch I make.

Ditch the spoon, get messy!

4. Melt the margarine and let it cool slightly, then work it into your dough. It will take some work to be absorbed but it will happen. Continue kneading until you have a soft, flexible dough. If your dough is sticky add some of your extra 200g flour - the amount will vary, today I used about 150g extra.
Keep kneading. 
Don't stop.
When your dough reaches the soft, flexible consistency you will know it, there will be an obvious change. When this happens knead a little longer. 

The dough WILL become soft and elastic

5. Cover the dough with a tea towel and put it deep into your bed. Mummi puts her electric blanket on its lowest setting, I just let the blankets perform their magic. 

Tuck your pulla dough into bed :)

Let your dough rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 180°C.
6. Tip your dough onto your bench and punch down once, then break into 5 pieces. 

7. Work with one piece at a time, rolling/stretching it out with your hands to form a long rectangle. Smother the surface with margarine, then sugar and cinnamon. Add more cinnamon. And some more.
Be generous with the cinnamon!

8. Roll the dough into a long sausage and cut diagonally - this is important to get the traditional pulla shape. Now press each piece down firmly with your thumb at the narrowest point in each slice. 
Cut diagonally
Find the narrowest part of the slice..
.. and press down

9. Leave on a baking tray to rise for another half an hour - about the time it takes to cut the rest up. 

10. Bake in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them, they should be just brown and slightly firm to touch. 

Pulla are heavenly straight out of the oven with fresh, strong, proper Finnish coffee. Don't forget the coffee, please. 
I find the flavours develop when they pulla are left overnight, but maybe it just takes me that long to forget how much I enjoyed eating them straight out of the oven..

Pulla freeze great - microwave to defrost and heat up and you have an instant cake for afternoon tea!

My freezer isn't stocked until there is a good supply of pulla inside. I'm curious to know what other peoples freezer essentials are...

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

10 Tips for a Healthy Life

Ally's 10 Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle
1. Eat fresh food! Try to reduce the amount of food you eat that comes pre-packaged/cooked. Up your fruit and vegies to those recommended 2 fruit, 5 veg per day or more!

2. Perform cardiovascular exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes, 3 times a week. This doesn't mean you need to join a gym - take the dog for a walk, or get someone to play frisbee with you for half an hour!

3. Know what you're eating. Take note of appropriate portion sizes, but more importantly the ingredients in the food you eat - this is where point 1. comes back in - if you cook it fresh, you know exactly what's in your meal!

4. Beware hidden sugars. Back to point 3, beware foods like pre-marinated chicken or breakfast cereals that often contain sugar. Don't forget that all fruit products (whole, pulp, juice) are mostly sugar too.

5. Treat yourself! Your body benefits from change in the quantities you consume - it's ok to have a big breakfast on Sunday mornings, or a slice of cake for afternoon tea once a week. Not only is the change good for your body, it keeps you sane!

6. Get some sunlight! Go outside and catch some rays in your lunch break - a great way to do that 30 minutes of exercise. You'll be surprised how good it can make you feel, not to mention how much your body will benefit from that vitamin D!

7. Drink up! All that water the health experts recommend you drink is not a way to make money, you know!

8. Talk to the people who sell you your food! If you can, source your foods from farmers markets where you have the opportunity to chat with your provider and find out a little bit about what happens to their food before it hits your plate.

9. Be aware of what your body likes and dislikes. Try keeping a food journal for a month and note when you feel tired, or get a headache, or when you have lots of energy. Have a rash that comes and goes? Right down when this flares and check if it is associated with food or perhaps different washing powders. Identifying which foods your body doesn't react well to can really improve how you feel each day.

10. Have fun! Get out and enjoy your life - it's happening NOW!

Vegan Eats: London

This summer I spent 7 weeks in England, visiting family and being a tourist. 
One of my favourite things about London was the popularity of Vegan eats. Here are some of my favourites:

Cookies and Scream (website)
Camden Market
Vegan and gluten-free bakery.
Hosts the best brownie I have ever eaten.

Their Chewy Wookie Bars are also delicious - almost too big to take a bite out of, a great vegan version of Hedgehog Slice.

If you want to find a giant vegan cookie, this is your place, too.
Whilst I wasn't particularly impressed with their chocolate chip cookies, their ginger cookie provided a delicious sweet-spiced hit.

Next time: I'll try their vegan donuts!!
                                                                                      Ruby Tuesdays (website)
                                                                                      Greenwich Market
Vegan cakes and cupcakes.
Hosts the best double chocolate muffin I have ever eaten.

Ruby's cakes, which you can buy by the slice, are divine. I tried her Chocolate and Strawberry Gateaux and it gave me that warm-fuzzy feeling that only cake can!

My brother says her carrot cakes are spot on, and I particularly liked her chocolate, coconut and raspberry cupcake!
Next time: I'll try her Chai Spiced Choc-Chip cupcake!

Mildred's Vegetarian Resturant
45 Lexington St, Soho, London
I have blabbed and blabbed about Mildred's.
Hosts the best vegan meals I have ever eaten.

Vegan Ethiopian Stall
Brick Lane Market (Sundays)
Hosts the best Ethiopian food I have ever eaten.

I don't know what the stall is called. I have no pictures. All I know is: when you go to London you must find this place!!! 
After my first lunch there I made a day of the markets so I could go back for dinner. I then returned to the markets just to find this food on my last day in London. Go there. Now.

Wholefoods (website)
Piccadilly Circus and Kensington High Street (and many other locations)
A supermarket designed for lovers of food.
Their Banoffee Pie (in a tub) is a fantastic vegan dessert, and while many of their products are not vegan - they have a fantastic range of cheeses, and meats, and anything else you can imagine - they have a great range.
I found vegan and soy-free iceream that was delicious. 
I found vegan chocolates in their chocolate counter. I found cookbooks. I found amazing breads, and a great range of vegetables, and nuts and seeds and oh my.. 
My sister-in-law and I both admitted to popping in to pick up some milk and spending a whole hour in there just browsing their shelves.

If you possibly can, find the time to visit these places. They could not let you down.

Monday, 28 January 2013

I Quit Sugar

Yes way.

I've been following Sarah Wilson and Jules Clancy's blogs SarahWilson and The Stone Soup and learnt a lot about the joys of quitting sugar.

Recently I've been doing a lot of baking for various birthdays and using a lot of sugar. This means I eat ridiculous amounts as I taste test while I'm going and I noticed how awful I felt afterwards. Headaches and mood swings and general unwellness. I identified these feelings as sugar drops, and recalled my doctor suggesting I be careful with my diet after I confided my sudden 3-o'clock drops, particularly when I'm in the kitchen.

I know sugar is bad. We all do, really. So today after a week of feeling rubbish I declared myself sugar-free.
I don't know how long it will last. I don't know if I'll decide to keep at it, or become lazy and throw it in the too-hard-basket for next week or next year etc. But for now, lets have a crack.

Day 1: horrid headache, withdrawals I think. And moody. Doesn't help that I'm babysitting a screaming 1 year old. Nor that I had too much sugar yesterday.

Breakfast: oats cooked with water, seed mix added inc. chia, and a dollop of coconut cream. Not bad.

Lunch: lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad with a tin of lemon-pepper tuna (<1g sugar per 100g).

Afternoon: tin of 4-bean mix.

Evening: 4 sundried tomato corn thins and a handful of almonds.

Dinner: 2 celery sticks with hummus and peanut butter.

Drinks: 800mL bottle and 3-5 glasses of water + 1 black tea + 1 green tea