Super Annoying!

IMG_0980 If this year has taught me nothing else so far, it’s that kombucha tea does not give you super powers, and that the whole superfoods movement is a load of wilted kale. My kombucha tea scoby is now in the compost, and yesterday I discovered that my organically grown kale plants were being destroyed by caterpillars. After picking about 40 of the little bastards off my ravished plants, I realised the only thing left for it, was to uproot the whole lot and be done with the kale phase of my life.

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I felt too guilty to just bin it in the compost, so I took a deep breath and spent the next hour trying to wash all the caterpillars out of the curly kale leaves.

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Disgusting.

Finally, facing a mountain of clean kale, I got out my trusty NutriBullet and pulverised the lot, before pouring the extremely bright green liquid into ice cube trays. I now have about 60 kale cubes ready for green smoothies. They are pretty smelly, but I think it will work. Either that or they will be thrown in the bin in due course.

So, that’s it so far for organic gardening and fermented super foods. I think my next task will be to find an exercise class I enjoy. Anyone for yoga?

 

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I’ve Admitted Defeat

 

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Well, at least on the kale front. I’m just going to say it. I don’t like kale, I can’t stand quinoa and I think my green smoothie days are over. However, I’m still loving my fruit smoothies so all is not lost with my Magic Bullet. I also had to admit defeat this week on squashing my creativity into a rigid daily timetable of set amount of words at a set time each day.

At the beginning of the year I set myself quite a few ‘goals’. I’ve realised that my life can’t be that rigid. I do know some people can organise themselves into powerhouses of amazing achievements, but I’m not one of them. Instead, I’m sitting down for an hour each day and just writing for the fun of it. No word count, no deadlines, no pressure. Otherwise, writing becomes like having to drink a kale smoothie every morning vs. eating what you feel like at breakfast. There’s something so depressing about ‘should’. I’m not saying discipline isn’t important (hello weekly yoga class and daily french lessons on Duolingo), but at the end of the day, I’m not sure following some weird idea of what life ‘should be’ is a recipe for success.

So, onwards! With less kale, a few more laughs and less pressure to achieve.

An alien poo in my tea

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I’ve got a feeling fermented foods are going to be the next craze in our fad-obsessed diet culture. But that’s a good thing, because 70% of our immune system exists in out gut, and fermented foods are excellent for improving gut health.

So, enter kombucha tea; a fermented substance that looks something like an alien poo, floating in a sea of urine (that’s the nurse in me coming out – sorry). It’s a pretty scary looking brew, however you view it.

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I came across it at a health fair, where I spoke to a herbalist who sold me a bottle of the tea. There was a tiny wisp of the alien poo thing (called a scoby), floating in the cold brew. After a bit of internet searching, I decided to try and produce my own tea, by growing the scoby, with the hope that I wasn’t going to poison myself to death in the process. The top picture shows how big the initial scoby was, and the bottom photo is what it looks like at the moment. So far, both myself and my muse are still alive. The finished product tastes much better than it looks, that is if you like things that taste like a cross between vinegar and sweet tea. The floating poo thingie sits in a brew of cold, sugary tea, and turns it into fermented kombucha tea, which you drink morning and night (just a tiny cup full at this stage.)

I’m not even going to attempt to advise on how to cultivate this stuff, as I’m still on a learning curve, but if you are interested, then it’s certainly a journey into quite strange food territory. And it’s something you can use to frighten unwanted guests away!

I’ll let you know how it goes…

A Magic Bullet…

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I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but I succumbed to the whole ‘green smoothie’ fad, after a recent visit from my friend David. David is one of the wisest people I know when it comes to nutrition, herbs, and anything to do with health really. So, when he told me about how good the NutriBullet smoothies were, I was willing to be open minded.

Then the universe stepped in, and I won enough money on a random bet at the casino to buy one!! You can argue with that.

‘So Jane, have you become a kale drinking hipster?’, I hear you ask. Well, not exactly. But I have started putting more fruit and veggies in my diet via my Magic Bullet superfood nutrition extractor (yup, I’ve watched those infomercials), and I am feeling better. I’m not saying that adding a shot of vodka to the morning mix wouldn’t make it a even nicer, but, as this is my year of getting my act together on as many fronts as possible, this is a damn easy way to rev up your diet.

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Mind you, you need a good recipe. The first one I made went down the drain. It was disgusting. So, here is my version of a green smoothie (thanks David!) I want to try drinking one a day for a month. And, if I don’t feel better at the end of the four weeks, then I’m heading straight to McDonalds for a burger and coke.

Hipster Kale Smoothie Drink

2 pitted dates

1 tablespoon raw cashews

1 large celery stalk

Slice of fresh ginger (to taste, it makes the smoothie very zingy)

1 small red apple (no seeds or core)

2 kale leaves

1/2 peeled lemon (no skin, no seeds, no pith)

1 cup of cold water, or coconut water if you want to be super trendy

Combine the lot in your Magic Bullet blender and blast it to kingdom come.

It’s the end of an era

photo-121Well, it’s a day I never thought would come when I was in my twenties, thirties, or let’s be honest, even my forties. I’m fifty years old tomorrow.

FIFTY. THAT’S SO FUCKING OLD.

How the hell did that happen? In most Western cultures, turning fifty is meant to be accompanied by a few achievements – a happy marriage, a house nearly paid off, maybe a couple of kids, and a career which is reaching it’s peak. Hmm, I’ve missed a few of the boxes along the way. Apart from the husband (found at forty), I’m not going to be able to invite you to gather around my camp fire, to listen to the wisdom of how I achieved all that women my age seem to be meant to have.

So, on the eve of a rather scary transition from one age to another, I hear you saying ‘Jane, share some of your wisdom with us! Tell us a secret we can’t know. You are an old chook now. There must be something.’

Okay, lean in. I’m about to share a secret which may change the landscape of your life.

How do you get entry into the grooviest bars in town, be on first name basis with the head cocktail waiter and/or owner, to the point they even know your favourite drink, and may let you in when the bar is full. No mean feat at any age.  Here’s the secret. Gather around while I whisper it to you.

Turn up when the bar first opens. Yes, this may mean you are there just after 5pm. Yes, it may be five hours before you normally go out. There will be no one else in the bar. You can chat to the bored staff, let them mix you a drink which they invented and want to try out on you, then gush over it because it will probably be friggin delicious, and et voila, they remember you forever! Not that hard.

The other piece of wisdom I have to impart is this. Many people don’t get to celebrate getting older. I see it all the time when I nurse at the hospital. I really can see the benefit of enjoying each day, enjoying the journey and being thankful that you are still here to celebrate it. You can’t stop the march of time, but you can bloody well make sure you know the best bartenders in town to help you pave the way to old age.

CHEERS! x

 

Kitchen Myths

photo-151One of the benefits of being currently underemployed is I get to watch morning TV as I go about my household chores. Lately, I’ve decided to stop watching the morning news shows (too scary), and have been watching Jamie Oliver’s Thirty Minute Meals instead. The trouble with this sort of TV show is you get to thinking that you too can create something fabulous, in half an hour, in one pot for dinner… With lots of spare time on my hands, I started going through my folder of recipes I rip out from magazines, which I’ve been meaning to try for ages. Last night, it was time to try something new.

Chicken Pasta Bake. It looked so simple, and implied in the instructions were that it would take twenty minutes to make, was easy to prepare and was perfect for busy, time poor people. That’s not me at the moment, but pushing through the social guilt of not being a stressed-out, high flying career woman, I gave it a go. The above photo is the end result of this bloody recipe. Jamie Oliver would be disgusted. It took me forever to make – at least one and a half hours. The kitchen resembled a war zone, as I filled the dishwasher up entirely with pots and pans. I got so hot and flustered, I completely lost the plot and ended up screaming at my muse, as my ‘ready for 7pm dinner dish’ ended up being served at 8pm.

The dish was entirely ordinary.

Which brings me to the conclusion that a lot of those untried recipes, which promise to be ready in half an hour, should just stay in that recipe folder. Much like the perfect career, the perfect marriage or perfect children, these images we are sold by the likes of Jamie Oliver, Nigella and Rick Stein, are like episodes of The Bold and The Beautiful. They exist in a world of fantasy, far beyond the reach of an everyday woman… (The Bold and the Beautiful is on before Jamie Oliver in the mornings, so I know what I’m talking about).

However, there are exceptions to all rules and in the true spirit of a true one pot dinner, I am going to share a wonderful chorizo sausage stew I make. You can cook it in one big pot. It tastes awesome. It’s easy to make. It only takes half an hour. I think there is a lesson in all of this. Probably that I should leave the TV turned off in the mornings, and instead concentrate on my studying my Chinese lessons from YouTube (yup, that’s something else you can do when you are underemployed. Learn a new language). Hmm, I wonder if they do cooking tutorials too?

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SPICY CHORIZO SAUSAGE STEW

Ingredients

4 chorizo sausages, sliced

1 brown onion, chopped

2 crushed cloves of garlic

1 red capsicum, chopped

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp smoked paprika

400g can chopped tomatoes

2 cups beef stock

420g can corn kernels, drained

400g can cannellini beans, drained

1 bay leaf

2 tsps chopped fresh thyme (I use dried if I don’t have fresh)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Put the cut up sausages into a large pot and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until brown. Add the onion, garlic and capsicum. Cook, stirring, until the onion is soft. Throw in the spices and stir around for about 30 seconds before adding everything else. I sometimes put tomato paste in as well, if I want the stew to be thicker. Simmer for about 20 minutes and serve with garlic bread. You can also top the stew with a dollop of sour cream, so take that Jamie Oliver!

What A Week…

photo 1-13Firstly, a big apology for the lack of posts in May. ‘Jane, we’ve really missed you. Where have you been?’ I hear you say. Well, I’ve been a bit down. Not getting any work at the hospital where you’re employed as a casual nurse, sending off your manuscript to publishers who don’t get back to you, realising you haven’t lost those ten kilos yet, and nearly ripping your thumb off while dismounting from your aerial hoop at circus class can take it’s toll on a gal’s joie de vie. However, as always, there is one person I look to for guidance and courage.

My Celine.

‘Celeine, what would you do if you were me?’ And invariably, I feel her reaching out to me to say ‘Jane, dust yourself off, hold your head high, and get back out there.’

It was also an extremely busy week in this usually quiet town. I got interviewed by a TV station about my writing, attended a healthcare protest on the steps of parliament, and then we had an armed siege not far from my house which closed off the centre of the city.

My friend Lauren also made me this totally delicious recipe which probably won’t help me lose 10kgs, but is so tasty and easy to make, I’m going to share it.

Boursin Stuffed Mushrooms In Chilli Garlic Butter

Ingredients

3 large Swiss mushrooms, or 6 smaller button mushrooms (but not the tiny ones)

50g garlic and herb Boursin cheese

20g butter

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 red chilli, finely chopped (add more if you love chilli)

Cracked black pepper

Method

Heath the oven to 190 C/376F. Pull the stems out of the mushrooms and discard. Next open the packet of cheese and try not to eat it all before you use it. Squish the cheese into the mushroom caps, then place the mushrooms into a baking dish.

Heat the butter to melt, and add the crushed garlic and chilli. Spoon the mixture onto the cheese-filled mushrooms, sprinkle with black pepper and put in the oven to bake for around 20 minutes.

photo-150Enjoy!

 

The Best Laid Plans…

COURTYARDI’ve decided I need to become more healthy, toned, in touch with my inner nature, and more spiritual. It’s not much to ask of your life, and today I got off to an exceptionally good start with a yoga class. After an hour of deep breathing, meditative movement, and all round pious good feelings, I was filled with determination to remain relaxed, and healthy for the rest of the day. That lasted ten minutes because I went to the Haigh’s Chocolate Factory to buy someone a present. Faced with an array of the most delicious chocolates in the world, I crumbled, and ate a salted caramel chockie.

Next came shopping for dinner at the supermarket, where I was ambushed by one of those people offering free tastes of food to passers by. Of course, if someone offers you ice cream with salted caramel sauce on it when you have only had a herb tea for breakfast, you are going to cave in. Next thing I knew, I had a jar of the bloody sauce in my trolley, along with a tub of ice cream to go with it. It was about then I realised my day of pious behaviour had come to a crashing halt, and with that in mind, I bought a meat pie for lunch, went home and watched Dr Phil, and decided to start anew tomorrow.

Luckily, I was still on a happy high from my latest experiment in the kitchen. I heard someone describing how they cooked a roast leg of lamb in their electric frying pan, so I decided to give it a go. I always get quite over excited at the thought of a new cooking technique, and this was no exception. So, even though I have crashed and burnt on all fronts today, yesterday was a rip snorting success in the kitchen, and to cheer myself up, I’m going to share the recipe with you!

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ROAST LAMB AND VEGIES IN AN ELECTRIC FRYING PAN..

1.6kg leg of lamb with bone

Various vegetables to roast ie. potatoes, sweet potato, pumpkin

Garlic

Sprigs of Rosemary

Method: Make some small incisions in the meat, and push cut up pieces of garlic into the holes. Rub the leg with olive oil, sprinkle some salt over it, and set to one side. Next, cut the vegetables up into smallish pieces. You want them to cook through so, as you can see from my photos, smaller chunks are better. Set the frypan to its highest heat, add a little olive oil, and sear the meat on all sides. Remove from the frying pan, and turn it down to a lower setting. I used between 2 to 4 on mine.

imageReturn the meat to the pan, and surround the meat with the vegies and rosemary. Put the lid of the frying pan on, and leave the steam vent open. It took about 3 hours for my leg of lamb to cook, and I put the vegies in the oven for twenty minutes at the end, just to crisp them up a bit. When the meat is cooked, take it out and cover it in tinfoil, leaving it to sit for about fifteen minutes. I made a tasty gravy by putting 2 tablespoons of flour into some warm water (250mls approx), mixing it up to get rid of the lumps, then added it to the frying pan, with all the meat juices. I also threw in a few tablespoons of vermouth, a sprinkling of Lea and Perins sauce and some crushed black pepper. And there you have it! It didn’t heat up the house, the pan was easy to wash, the meat was tender, and my muse was happy. All in all, a damn fine experiment!

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Goodbye to the Snake and hello to the Horse!

photo-86It’s Chinese New Year tomorrow, with the Year of the Snake on the way out. I think a lot of people found the Year of the Snake difficult. This coming year is the Year of the Wooden Horse, so here’s hoping this coming year will be a bit easier.

In honour of the Chinese New Year, I’m posting a recipe for a Chinese Chicken Hotpot. I make it in a slow cooker, but you could make it in a big pot on the stove, if you cooked it slowly. I’ve made the following recipe a few times and it was an instant favourite with my muse. It’s excellent to make in a heatwave, because when it feels like the gates of hell have opened above your city, then you don’t want to be cranking up the oven.

So here we go. The recipe is a big vague, because I have found that I like to adjust it to my taste. The ingredients are quite easy to find. I’ve pictured them above, so you know what you are looking for. Yummy!!

CHINESE CHICKEN HOT POT

1.8kg whole chicken (or thereabouts)

500mls of chicken stock

Approximately 1/2 cup of Chinese cooking wine

1/2 cup of soya sauce

1/2 cup of oyster sauce

1/4 cup of brown sugar (or to taste. I don’t like it too sweet)

As many cloves of garlic as you like (I use about six)

6cm piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced into matchsticks

3 star anise

1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder

2 long red chillies, cut into pieces (I use about ten because I love chillies, and I use the super hot small chillies)

Chinese greens (ie. bok choy) I also put spring onions and coriander in the broth, and sometimes shitake mushrooms

Noodles (I use thin rice noodles)

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Method: Wash the chicken and place it in the slow cooker along with the star anise, ginger and garlic cloves and dried shitake mushrooms if you are using them. In a big jug, mix together the liquid ingredients and the sugar and Chinese five spice powder. Have a taste and see if you want to adjust anything. The cooking wine is strong in taste, and a bit unusual, but it is lovely when heated. Remember that the broth will be flavoured by the chicken bones in the chicken too. Pour the liquid over the chicken, and cook on low for eight hours. I turn the chicken half way through, and top up with water if needed.

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When the chicken is cooked, take it out of the broth and put to one side. When it has cooled enough, pull the meat from the bones and discard the carcass. Strain the broth into a big saucepan. I fish out the garlic cloves and shitake mushrooms from the seive, and put them back into the liquid. Cut up your vegies, and put them into the broth, letting them cook. Meanwhile, cook your noodles, and drain.

To assemble, put noodles in the bottom of a big soup bowl. Put the chicken in, then spoon over the vegies and broth, adding the chillies. I meant to take a photo of the finished dish, but forgot because I was so hungry. It was delicious!

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!!

Lessons Learnt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOkay, this photo is pretty radical. Clearly I am not in IKEA buying my dream bookcase.

“What’s happening Jane?” I hear you say. “Are you performing a tracheotomy in a restaurant on a dying person, has someone thrown up on you, or are you in pain from being shot in a hold up?” Well, it’s none of the above. It’s me in a Bali toilet (it’s a selfie!) God, I hate public toilets. It’s what puts me off traveling overseas. If I was one of those blessed creatures who don’t care about what goes on around them, then I would have been to Bhutan and back, several times. But I hate it. I hate plane toilets. I hate all toilets that are not my own. I have nightmares about going to the loo in public places.

So, what does this have to do about my blog? Nothing really. It’s 10pm and I’ve just scratched some chilli in my eye by mistake (where did that come from??), I have a 5am wake up call for a nursing shift a the hospital which may, or may not be available (ahhhh, the joys of being a casual worker), and I’m in the middle of editing my new book, which I am having a mini meltdown over (it’s crap. I am crap. My writing is crap.) So perhaps that’s why I posted a photo of me looking at some crap in a loo.

On a brighter note, here is a fabulous way to restore confidence in all areas of life, when one is doubting oneself (that might be the lesson learnt, because the title implies something wise and deep, which is not really going to happen!)

SKIN POLISH

Okay, so forget about spending loads of money on skin exfoliation products. Just grab some castor sugar, pour it into a bowl, and add a good dash of a body lotion. I find sorbalene works wonderfully for this. Now hop in the shower, and rub it all over your body. Rinse off, et voila! A polished skin. You won’t be disappointed. (Public health warning: obviously, don’t rub so hard your skin comes off and don’t rub it on your face).