As planned, soup number two this afternoon was spicy red pepper. I think this one is going to take some adjusting to get it just right, but it was a decent first attempt.

Spicy red pepper soup

Definitely a more attractive colour than the broccoli

Spicy red pepper soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 red capsicums, roasted, peeled and chopped
1/2 medium sized sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery
can of chopped tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste
big pinch of chilli flakes
nutritional yeast to serve

Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil, in a large saucepan until translucent. Add carrots, sweet potato and celery and allow to soften. Meanwhile, cut capsicums in half and put under the grill until the skins are black. This took a good 15-20 minutes. Once the capsicums are done and are cool enough to handle, peel the skin off, chop and add to the pan. Add the chopped tomatoes, veg stock, thyme, chilli flakes, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Simmer until potatoes are soft. Transfer to blender and puree in batches. Serve with nutritional yeast.

This soup was quite salty. I may have added to much extra without taking into account the salt added to the chopped tomatoes. I don’t think I’d add extra salt if using canned chopped tomatoes again. In fact, I think it would probably be better to use extra stock and a few fresh tomatoes instead. I also think it’d be really great with some fresh herbs. Basil maybe? I wish I could be trusted to water plants. I’ve managed to kill every herb I’ve ever tried to grow. Even mint, which apparently is notoriously hard to kill. What can I say? I have a talent.

I unpacked our stash from the Food and Wine Show earlier. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can even enjoy it away from home. Fancy a cheeky tipple at work? No worries! Ladies and gentlemen, presenting…

The wine rack Source

Ridiculous and yet ingenious. I’m not sure I’d be marketing it as the ‘perfect gift for your girlfriend’, unless she has a great sense of humour or you’re looking for a slap, but I’m sure in certain situations it’s very useful, more for the drink portability aspect rather than its rack-enhancing properties.

I also stumbled across this. Chocolate. In pill form. Why do we need chocolate in pill form? What’s wrong with chocolate in chocolate form?! I’m thrilled about the health benefits of eating more chocolate and I’ll happily adjust my intake accordingly, but I’d never choose munching on a good piece of solid chocolate to swallowing a pill. I wonder how many people will jump on this bandwagon?


After 18 long, dry days, I cashed in my Dry July golden ticket yesterday and hit the Good Food and Wine Show. Aerial shot:

Good Food and Wine Show

Gourmet goodness

It was awesome 🙂 There seemed to be much more food this year than I remember last year. We picked up some yummy salad dressing and a dukkah/dressing/oil combo that is going to go really well with the bread I will eventually get round to making.

We spent a fair amount of time in Barossa and there were a couple of other regions we visited. I think the majority of wine we brought back was shiraz. There were so many different types. It was crazy to see just how much variation there was between different types of wine made from the same grapes. I’m back on the Dry July wagon now but very much looking forward to August and cracking open some fancy wine.

Today I want to try to get some cooking done. Last week it was great not having to think about what to cook for dinner and even better not having to actually cook it and clean up the mess. I’m really feeling soups at the moment but I don’t want to overdo the pumpkin soup, so this morning I whipped up this simple broccoli soup.

Roasted broccoli soup

Soup number one of this week

Roasted broccoli soup

2 large heads of broccoli
4 cups of vegetable stock
3-4 tsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
chilli flakes and nutritional yeast to serve

Preheat oven to 200C. Chop up the broccoli and garlic, put in baking trays (I had 2 full trays) and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes. Once broccoli is roasted transfer to large saucepan, add stock, thyme, and lemon juice and bring to boil. Once stock has come to boil, turn off the heat and puree the contents of the saucepan in a blender (I did it in two batches). Serve with a big pinch of chilli flakes and nutritional yeast.

The soup has a really nice savoury flavour to it. My only criticism is it’s a little bit watery – I used about 5 cups of stock in mine.

This afternoon I want to try a roasted red pepper soup. I’m also going to make lentil chilli for lunch next week.


Today:

16Jul10

I saw two bikini-clad girls on the way to work, covered from head to toe in ‘I love Nova 93.7’ in felt-tip. Surely there are better ways to announce this? It was by no means appropriate bikini weather this morning. I wonder what Nova were giving them to do it. I very much doubt any radio station could offer me a good enough incentive to do the same. Interestingly, yesterday I saw a guy in a chicken suit for Nova. I’d happily be a chicken.

I decided that I don’t like Enrique Iglesias. Apart from the fact that I’ve seen him and Pitbull every day this week, he has a smug look in his eye that annoys me. Yes, he’s pretty, but that knowing, I-could-get-you-to-do-anything-I-wanted look, however true it may be, annoys me. Especially because he knows it. This is based entirely upon the music video, but I just don’t think the man is a good enough actor to be able to pull that look off without really meaning and believing it.

I realised that there are a lot of women in the world who have no idea what bra size they are. How is this possible? If you have a muffin to under your chin and are oozing boob under your armpits, chances are something is not right. If I can see this, how come you haven’t noticed yet?

I completed my fifth day at the gym in a row. Bearing in mind my recent lack of motivation, this is nothing short of miraculous.

I embraced my current love of brussel sprouts by enjoying them roasted, in some pumpkin soup. It made an absolutely amazing lunch. Truth be told, I could probably eat it again.

Lunch

It might not look pretty but it rocked my socks.

Tomorrow Dan and I are off to the Good Food and Wine Show in Darling Harbour. Although I’m technically in the middle of Dry July, I bought a golden ticket for this one. The GFWS is one of my favourite days in the entire year. A huge added bonus this year is the fact that I don’t have flu. I’ve never been without flu before. To say I’m excited is an understatement.


Paul the octopus is retiring! I’m kinda sad. I was enjoying the octopus oracle reports. Apparently, despite an offer from Wall Street, Paul will be returning to his day job ‘making children laugh’ at the Sea Life aquarium in Oberhausen. Fingers crossed no angry German tries to take him down after his betrayal with the Germany vs Spain prediction.

On the subject of animals, I did not enjoy Masterchef AT ALL last night. The pressure test was a roasted squab pigeon with a turnip cake. I’d never heard of squab before but the celebrity chef’s description – a baby pigeon that’s kept in the dark and has never taken flight – horrified me. How is it that animals can still be subjected to such cruelty? I’m surprised PETA isn’t up in arms about this one. Maybe they’re more of a Dancing with the Stars crowd. Or maybe they’re just busy campaigning for Paul’s release.

I’m reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffran Foer at the moment. It was given to me for my birthday (at my request) but I was wary of reading it because I didn’t want to be subjected to another you-must-go-vegan-right-now-otherwise-you-are-a-terrible-human-being rant a la Skinny Bitch. It’s addictive. The tone of the book is nothing like what I imagined. The author speaks of his own experiences with eating meat and vegetarianism, but rather than trying to project his views onto the reader, he just presents them. He doesn’t try to condemn eating meat as bad or wrong, but he does ask a lot of questions. Questions that have really been making me think about my own attitude to food. I’m not very far through it at the moment but it’s made me realise that things aren’t so black and white, and perhaps judging things on a case-by-case basis is more useful than, for want of a better phrase, tarring everything with the same brush.

Case in point: Paul the octopus. He’s clearly an intelligent (and yes, I believe he has some kind of psychic powers – nothing is that coincidental) yet he’s stuck in a tiny box in an aquarium. But why? Is he part of a breeding program to preserve his particular species? Was he rescued from unfortunate circumstances and brought to safety at the aquarium? Maybe he was just plucked out of the ocean and rehoused for human pleasure, but my point is, sometimes there’s more to a situation than there first appears. Sometimes what may be perceived to be cruel by people who don’t have all the facts is not necessarily the case. Of course, this works both ways. Apparently free-range does not mean what we think it means.


Monday madness

12Jul10

My first workout this morning went well. I’m not really used to lifting heavy so I think I might have under-done the weight on a couple of exercises. I’ve got four weeks to get it right though. I also managed 25 minutes on the elliptical. Do we even call it an elliptical machine here? I’m sure I began by calling it a cross-trainer but I read so many American blogs maybe the language is rubbing off on me. Hmmm.

This morning it seemed as though every commuter in Sydney was doing their best to deliberately piss me off. People walking into me, cutting me up, stopping randomly in the middle of the street. Despite all this, I resisted the temptation to punch someone in the head and made it to work in one piece.

I’m starting to feel like I’m getting the hang of things, although my lack of knowledge about the Australian property market makes it pretty challenging at times. I’m hoping if I read enough it’ll sink in.

So, apart from my general lack of knowledge, work was pretty uneventful. Leftovers served me well today, with pumpkin soup for lunch, and leftover falafel for dinner:

Leftover falafel wrap

Prepared in ten minutes. No fuss.

Falafel was made from an Orgran mix, and despite not being fried in the suggested INCH of oil, they tasted pretty good. Toss in a few roasted beetroot chunks, a handful of beansprouts and some cos lettuce, and dinner is served.

I think I’m going to do another wrap tomorrow night to use up a left over burger and the tomato sauce from the gnocchi. Yes, that does mean that I’m planning tomorrow’s dinner 24 hours in advance. I have no problem with this.

And to further strengthen the case for the iphone, I read today that someone has developed an app for calculating taxi fares in Sydney, and best of all, it also shows the shortest route. This is groundbreaking. Most taxi drivers in Sydney have no idea where they are going. I’ve read maps for taxi drivers in the past. What exactly am I paying you for?! And when I do find one that knows where they are, they seem to delight in taking me where I want to go via the longest possible route. This app will mean the end of being ripped off. So yes, in case I haven’t made it clear, I need an iphone.


The second of today’s pumpkin based meals was a marked improvement on my first attempt. It still didn’t really look anything like the photo with the original recipe, but it was much less sticky than last time. The texture was firmer, too.

So, here it is:

Pumpkin gnocchi with tomato and olive sauce

Not the greatest photo. The case for the iphone gets stronger...

Pumpkin gnocchi with tomato and olive sauce

Gnocchi:

1 1/2 cups of cooled, cooked, mashed pumpkin (I used Japanese pumpkin)
1 cup (approx.) of flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice

Tomato and olive sauce:

1 can chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup of olives
1/2 an onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 stick of celery
3 basil leaves, roughly torn
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
large pinch of dried chilli flakes

Sift flour into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until combined. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. I found the mixture I had fairly sticky so I didn’t do an awful lot of kneading. Flour is the key! It’s the only thing that stops the mixture sticking to your fingers or the surface. Roll the mixture into tubes of about one inch in diameter, and cut in to half-inch pillow shapes. I tried to make the gnocchi grooves with a fork but I’m not sure whether this was particularly successful or really helped with the cooking process. Once your gnocchi’s in the right shape, transfer to a plate and begin making the sauce.

Saute the onions, garlic, celery and olives in the olive oil for around 5 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, chilli flakes, basil leaves and oregano and simmer for around 15-20 minutes (until it thickens and looks saucy, basically). Serve sauce over gnocchi. I served the gnocchi on some steamed broccoli.

Hopefully this mass cooking mission will mean I don’t have to cook at all next week unless I want to or get sick of pumpkin soup. Both situations are unlikely.

I’m starting a new workout program next week. Even though it’s been three months since I did afterburn, it doesn’t feel like long enough. It’s only been three weeks since I started again but I’m already bored. The new one is more of a bodybuilding type schedule, training upper and lower body separately. Last time I did something like this was a couple or years ago when I was doing body-for-life. I’m ready to give it a crack again. And I’m going boxing on Wednesday night for the first time in a long time. I’m looking forward to it 🙂


Yesterday I didn’t get dressed until around four. There didn’t really seem to be any point. Dan and I spent the best part of the day under blankets on the sofa, watching Daria. It was a bit disconcerting being able to see my breath inside. I can’t wait for winter to be over.

Today was much more productive, although still didn’t quite pan out the way I expected it to. I first woke up around seven but still felt exhausted, so I turned right back over and promptly fell back asleep. Weekend perk, right? I eventually woke up at 9:45 – there goes that pilates class I was going to go to, then.

The day started with boats (banana + oats), which I think I first found here.

Banana oats

Breakfast is served

Banana oats (Boats)

(Serves 2)

2/3 cup of oats
milk of choice (I used rice milk)
small handful of goji berries
1 banana

Smash the banana. Chuck it in a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients and make porridge as you would normally. Drizzle with honey (Dan) or peanut butter (me) to serve. This also works in the microwave.

Last week’s idea about cooking for the week didn’t really work out as well as I’d planned. I forgot that cooked eggplant gives me a crazy stomach ache, so while I really enjoy eating it, the next few hours are horribly uncomfortable. Needless to say, after being reminded of this on Monday, I was wary about eating the rest of the curry. I think I’m going to have to freeze the rest until I forget again. Or just remove the eggplant. That seems like it would work.

After breakfast I was suddenly filled with culinary inspiration, so I hit the kitchen. I’ve been meaning to make pumpkin soup for the last two weeks but for one reason or another, haven’t managed it. Today is the day.

Spicy pumpkin soup

Spicy pumpkin soup

4 cups of pumpkin
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
1/2 onion or 1 leek, chopped
1 tsp ginger
1-2 tsp olive oil
5 cups of vegetable stock
2 large pinches of chilli flakes
coconut milk and coriander to serve

First, bake the pumpkin (in skin) in a 200C oven for around 40 minutes. Once the pumpkin is cooked, remove the skin and transfer to a bowl for mashing. Save the skin for later if you like to eat it, discard it if you don’t. Saute onion in olive oil until translucent. Add carrot, celery, apple and ginger and saute for a further five minutes. Add mashed pumpkin, vegetable stock and chilli flakes and simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to blender (you’ll probably have to do it in two batches) and blend until you reach the desired consistency. Serve with coconut milk and coriander garnish, with bread or crackers. I like to have something to chew so I usually add chopped up snow peas. Today I didn’t have any so instead, I added some of the leftover pumpkin skin.

While I was waiting for the pumpkin to cook I did a bit of rooting around in the fridge to see what else was going. I found some barely passable beetroots so decided to turn them into this yummy dip for my veggies next week. I had to adapt it slightly because my supplies were somewhat limited!

Raw beetroot dip

1 cup raw beetroot, roughly chopped
1/4 cup onion, roughly chopped
1 packed tbsp coriander, roughly chopped
1/2 tomato, roughly chopped
1/2 red capsicum
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime (almost!)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin powder
Dash of cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until you achieve a smooth, creamy consistency. This took a good ten minutes.

Raw beetroot dip before

Ingredients ready to be blended

Raw beetroot dip after

The finished product

Two things to note: it took be bloody ages to get an in-focus image of this dip, which I believe is yet another reason I need an iphone; raw garlic is incredibly strong. I’ve been coming round to the idea of garlic recently and have started using it more, but there’s quite a difference in flavour strength between raw and cooked garlic. I can take it, but if I make this again, I’ll probably just use half a clove.

Tonight I’m going to attempt pumpkin gnocchi again. The pumpkin has been cooling for hours so fingers crossed it works this time.