Thursday, 28 February 2013

Cardamom Cheesecake Bars

 Ok I'm on the verge of collapsing right now.. But I need to get this 15th post up..I'm so tired and stressed..

What am I doing with my life?  I just did horribly on a class test.  Horribly both on an absolute sense and a relative sense.  I hate my clever classmates.  I'm not meant for academia.  I wish I could just stop all this and cook.  I wish somebody would pay me to make these for them.  These were such a hit at my weekly psychology society lunches - the cardamom really adds a nice touch.   I wish I could just sell these. 

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Various Spelt Grissini

Ahh! TESTS AND ESSAYS!  Ok ok I'm going to try really hard to do two more posts (including this one) so I can get 15 per month as planned (unlike January, oops). 

Ok. Grissini! Let me tell you the history behind these little Italian bread sticks - the story is the king has asked the baker of the town to make something that won't go off so quickly, for the soldiers in the army, so he invented bread sticks which last for ages! Well, relatively.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Simple Coffee Cake & 30 Happy Facts

I saw this list of happy facts and picked out my favorites to share with you.  I don't know if they're all true, but I hope they make you smile.

1. A group of flamingos is called a flamboyance.
2. If you fake laugh long enough you’ll start to really laugh, really, really hard.
3. Every year, millions of trees grow thanks to squirrels forgetting where they buried their nuts.
4. The Beatles used the word “love” 613 times throughout their career.
5. The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We’re all made of star dust.
6. Cancer death rates are down 20% in past 20 years.
7. Penguins only have one mate their entire life and “propose” by giving their mate a pebble.
8. Cows have best friends.

9. Cuddling releases Oxytocin which helps speed healing and recovery from physical wounds.
10. Otters hold hands when sleeping so they don’t drift away from each other.
11. Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon, wrote his daughter initials there. They’ll last at least 50,000 years.
12. There’s a type of jellyfish that lives forever.
13. Wayne Allwine (the voice of Mickey Mouse) and Russi Taylor (the voice of Minnie Mouse) were married in real life.
14. For someone, somewhere in the world, today is the most amazing day of their life.
15. Every year the Netherlands sends 20,000 tulip bulbs to Canada to thank them for their aid in the Second World War.
16. Rats giggle when you tickle them. Their voices are so high-pitched you need special equipment to hear them, but when you do, their laughs are immediately evident.
17. Sea horses mate for life, are completely faithful and travel together by holding on to each others tails.
18. If you say “my cocaine” you sound like Michael Caine saying his own name.
19. Male puppies, when playing with female puppies, will intentionally let the female win.
20.The kingdom of Bhutan use ‘gross national happiness’ as a key national indicator.
21. No matter how long you live there will always be an amazing new food for you try.
22. A group of porcupines is called a prickle.
23. There’s an animal called a Dik Dik. And it’s the cutest antelope you’ll ever see.
24. Neurologically speaking, seeing somebody else smile actually makes you happier.
25. Spinner dolphins sleep in pairs, one with the left hemisphere asleep, the other with the right. They each keep watch with one eye and half a brain. They are known to sleep-mate for life.
26. Baby puffins are called pufflings.
28. Costa Rica is statistically the happiest nation on Earth.
29. Worms communicate by snuggling.

and finally, 30: this coffee cake is easy and quick to make.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Carrot Halva Chia Oatmeal

I live with 4 girls.  My room is sandwiched between two of their rooms.  Last night, as I was trying to have a quiet night in and catch up on my academic readings, awful hip hop was blasting out of one, and Muse was blasting out the other.  I don't like hip hop.  I like Muse.  Together, I realized I hate with a passion.

Fortunately, I have delightful breakfasts that can make me forget and move on.  
This takes a bit of effort to make in the morning, but if you're like me, and often wake up 20 minutes before your alarm - why not?

Friday, 22 February 2013

Clementine & Cinnamon Sesame Bark

Ok It's so hard to actually write with loud hip hop music blasting from the room next to mine.  I like my flatmates, all of them, I do.  But one has a particular liking for hip hop music, which I have just never been able to appreciate.  Well, I enjoy some hip hop.  Very limited, but I can't say I detest all hip hop.  I do not detest hip hop -- I detest techno, I detest songs about f**king hoes, and other songs written by people with lyrical writing skills of an elephant (first illiterate thing I can think of).  My dislike for general hip hop is not strong enough to be able to label the emotion as "detest".  I can appreciate hip hop in certain settings - in clubs, you know what, they've got good beats to dance to.  But I can't bear to listen to it in any other setting.  Especially not when home - when trying to sleep, when trying to read my textbook, when trying to write Happy Belly.  

I usually listen to music with headphones on, because the walls are thin and I'm worried that not all will enjoy my music (though I have excellent taste in music).  But.  Ok.  I will stop complaining.  Let's talk sesame. 

I feel like some form of sesame bark exists in most countries. And by most I mean I only know for certain that it exists in both Italy and China and thus I will generalize that to most countries.

These were for a friend that's leaving for a job down in London.  And I like the idea of edible gifts.  So, it's been fun, you'll be missed, and best of luck, Clare!

These took maybe 20 minutes in total to make. Maybe 15 minutes.  Yea, 15 minutes max.

Simple.  Infuse with flavors of your choice. 

zest of 1 clementine
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup sesame seeds
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp brown sugar

Take two pieces of greaseproof paper (at least the size of an A4 piece of paper) and put one on a flat surface, like on a baking tray, and reserve the other.

In a glass or metal bowl, mix the sesame seeds, cinnamon and zest.

Melt the honey and the sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan over high heat until it boils.  Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.  

Pour the mixture into the bowl with the sesame seeds and mix.  Do this quickly, after you've mixed it, quickly pour it over the grease proof paper, then place the other piece of paper on top and roll it out using a rolling pin.  Roll it to the thickness of about 0.5cm (about 1/4 inch) thick. 

Let cool and cut it into desired shapes.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

How to: Flax Eggs

I'm going to keep it short and quick because I must attend to a dinner party. 

Flax eggs are often required in vegan baking.  This yields one egg, so just replace it in your normal recipes.  Obviously it only works to..hold dry ingredients together, rather than cause it to rise or something.  So you can't really replace it in fine pastries and cakes..but simple baking yes.  Also good for making veggie burgers and whatnot. 

And flax seeds are so healthy.  Oh and on a side note, flaxseeds = linseeds.  And.  While consuming 1 tbsp of it a day is incredibly healthy, make sure you eat ground flax seeds because if they're whole they'll just go through your system the way it went in.

1 tbsp flaxseeds
3 tbsp warm water

Mix the ingredients together and leave it in the bowl for about 15 minutes until it's thick.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

No-Knead 100% Spelt Bread

 If you follow me on twitter (and you should), you'd know that the other day I had homemade peanut butter on homemade bread for breakfast that morning.  There was such a sense of satisfaction, such an amazing thing to wake up to.  It's like waking up to an accomplishment.  I've discovered two ways of cheering myself up in the morning -- 1. Dress up and look nice.  If you see me on the street looking particularly nice, you'd know that I woke up unhappy.  I look fantastic when I have exams. Look good, feel good, guys.  And 2. I either cook something or eat something that I've made.  It makes me feel like a strong accomplished woman.  Yes, through little things like homemade peanut butter and homemade bread.

Even better, this is really healthy and really easy to make. No-knead, that's right.  And wholegrain spelt flour.  I like spelt flour.  And I let the dough ferment overnight, so it's almost got a sourdough-like taste to it.  It's also got a really nice crunchy crust, which, despite what people in this country may think, is the way bread should be.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Carrot Courgette Tofu Quiche

I had been dying to make a vegan quiche.

I like normal quiches.  Not my favorite thing in the world, but I enjoy the occasional slice of dairy and egg pie.  However, through my dietary experiments, I've realized, I don't do well with dairy.  Not that I'm lactose intolerant, I've been eating cheese and gelato since I was able to eat solids.  And I love my cheese and gelato.  However, I realized, when I went vegan for two weeks, I was incredibly energetic, and as my last challenge (paleo) screwed me over. I feel the need for that cleanse again.

So it was time to make a vegan quiche.

My problem with these things is.. I never like making things that serve more than 1.  I'm always cooking for myself, and yes, ideally, I could make a 4 portioned meal and then just save the leftovers and eat it over 4 meals.  But but but..If it's there I'll eat it.  I ate this in 2 meals.  I think it could normally serve 4-6.......

So let's talk about these vegan quiches.

Vegan quiches usually entail tofu.  Flavoring agents usually comprise of a mixture or a selection of miso paste, soya sauce, tahini, nutritional yeast, and liquid aminos. 

It's really versatile - essentially you just blend up tofu and mix with some flavoring agents, perhaps add more spices if you wish, and then add some vegetables, and there's your filling. 

Crust:  I had no butter and was low on any form of oil so I found this recipe with a millet crust..and in all honesty, that didn't work too didn't quite stick together.  But the filling was good, and it was for myself, so I didn't care that my quiche crust didn't hold together.

Recipe adapted from Diet, Dessert, and Dogs
Pie Crust
1/2 cup (115 g) dry millet
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) vegetable broth or stock
pinch of fine sea salt

1 onion, diced
1 courgette, grated
2 medium carrots, grated
1 tsp paprika 
250g firm or extra firm silken tofu, or soft tofu
1 Tbsp (15 ml) white miso paste
2 Tbsp (30 ml) tahini (sesame paste)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) soy sauce

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Lightly grease a pie plate, or line with parchment paper.

The Crust
Pour millet into a small pot and add the broth.  Bring to boil over high heat, then lower heat to simmer, cover, and let simmer for 25 minutes, or until almost all the liquid is absorbed and the millet is soft and beginning to fall apart (if necessary, add extra stock until the millet reaches this consistency).

Stir well, then immediately pour the millet into the pie pan and, using the back of a spoon or wet hands (and being careful not to burn yourself!), press the millet into the pie plate to create a “crust.” (Dipping the spoon or your hands in water helps).

Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes until slightly dry.

The Filling
Heat oil in a large fry pan and sauté onions for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent and soft.

Add the carrot and courgettes, and sauté for another 5 minutes, until the spinach is wilted and other ingredients begin to soften.  Cover and turn off heat.

In a food processor or blender, mix the tofu, miso, tahini, soy sauce, and paprika, until very smooth.
Pour the mixture over the vegetables in the pan and stir to combine well. Turn into the crust in the pie pan, and smooth the top. 

Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until the top is light golden brown.

Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes to set before serving.  May be eaten hot, at room temperature, or cold. Makes 8 servings. May be frozen.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Ottolenghi's Aubergine with Buttermilk Sauce [and a Paleo Review]

Dear Readers, I have a confession to make.  Last Saturday I was set out for a One Week Paleo Challenge, where I eat nothing but vegetables, meat, fish, fruit and nuts.   Well, I couldn't do it.  I stopped after five days.  I had oats yesterday for breakfast.  It was Valentine's Day, I was alone, I had the right to eat whatever the hell I wanted for breakfast, and if it was oatmeal that I wanted, despite what the cavemen were able to discover in their times, I was going to get my oatmeal.

Joking aside, the Paleo challenge sucked.  Not only did I feel lethargic and hungry all the time, I actually gained weight.  1.5kg from all the nuts and dried fruits and sweet potatoes I ate, I presume.  Furthermore, it emptied out my wallet. Meat and vegetables are expensive.  So altogether, it was a horrible diet.  Don't do it.  Don't do it, I've sacrificed my own health and bank account to be able to tell all of you that the Paleo Diet sucks.

So back to the world where dairy is regularly consumed.  Here is a simple yet popular aubergine recipe.  By popular I mean I brought it to a potluck and it was consumed very quickly.  Again, thank you, Jess, for the Ottelenghi cookbook :D

Recipe from Plenty
Serves 4 as a starter
2 large and long aubergines
80ml olive oil
1 1/2 tsp lemon thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish (I used rosemary)
1 pomegranate
1 tsp za'atar
salt and pepper

140ml buttermilk (if you don't have any, just do 120ml of milk plus 1 tbsp of of lemon juice and let sit for 10 minutes before using in the recipe)
100g Greek yoghurt
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 200C

Cut the aubergines in half wavelengths, cutting straight through the green stalk.  Use a small sharp knife to make 3 or 4 parallel incisions in the cut side of each aubergine half, without cutting through to the skin.  Repeat at a 45 degree angle to get a diamond shape pattern.

Place the aubergine halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.  Brush them with olive oil and keep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed by the flesh.  Sprinkle with thyme leaves and some salt and pepper.  Roast for 35-40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft and nicely browned.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Cut the pomegranate into two horizontally.  Hold the half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, anduse the back of a wooden spoon or a rolling pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin.  Continue beating with increasing power until the seeds come out naturally through your fingers into the bowl. 

For the sauce, just whisk together all the ingredients.  Taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed

To serve, spoon buttermilk sauce over the aubergine halves, sprinkle za'atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with thyme.  Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

3 Ingredient Banana Pancakes

It is Day 5 of my Paleo Challenge.  I'm hungry and lethargic. Today I was asked why I was doing this to myself -- it obviously has no health benefits, and it is costing me a bomb.  Meat, fish, vegetables and all that is natural and good just costs a fortune in this country.  I don't really know why I'm doing this to myself -- self-discipline, pride... I don't know.  It's only day 5 and I'm already tempted to stop.  Maybe I'll end it early...

Throughout this challenge, I haven't been eating anything too interesting, the only meal where I make an effort is breakfast, hence it being the only one I tweet about (follow me on Twitter if you want to know all the other interesting things I eat! #shamelessselfpromotion).

So while they may look like normal pancakes, they tasted........ well, they weren't bad.  But i had these while watching my friends have normal sour cream pancakes that looked a lot better.  It's the texture that was a bit off-putting. Not off-putting, but just..not cakey.  Duh, no flour.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Chana Masala Sweet Potato Jackets

Vegan, gluten-free, very healthy in many ways, but not Paleo friendly. 

Don't worry, it's day three and I have not yet broken my Paleo Challenge.  I've been tweeting what I've been eating, but it's just been my breakfasts, actually.  Lunches and dinners I eat some stir fried vegetables and meat.  I was going to go all out and buy the Paleo friendly pantry necessities -- but they're not very student-budget-friendly.  So no coconut oil or coconut flour or too many nuts for desserts.  Though I could make this Healthy Chocolate Avocado Mousse again, just with honey instead of sugar. 

Anyway, I had made this last week.  Very yummy. I miss chickpeas.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

One Week Paleo Challenge

First of all, HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR! it's the year of the snake.  If you can read Mandarin, you'll be able to appreciate this.


Thursday, 7 February 2013

Apple and Almond Tea Cake

Hello Readers,

How are we doing?  Lent's coming up.  Are we all doing something for Lent?

I was going to do a Happy Belly Lent Challenge, but it's 40 days.  40 days.  I had a Math teacher in high school who was a devout Catholic and a coffee addict.  The poor man gave up coffee for Lent every year and he was just the b*tchiest thing in the world in that period.  Lovely man the other 325 days of the year, but those 40 days, he just derives me mad (hah, get it? Math teacher? I crack myself up).
Anyway, 40 days is too much, but I thought I'd do another two week challenge perhaps starting this weekend. I've done vegan, I've done gluten-free,  this time -- Paleo.  I'll talk more about it when I actually start.  I've done some preliminary research and it's already upsetting me as I discovered peanuts are off the list. 

So while I'm eating everything, I'm going to eat cakes and stuff.  Paleo means baking's a pain because the only flours I'm allowed to use are nut flours and coconut flour which is very $$$.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Coffee and Almond Cake

My streak of bad luck with birthday cakes is finally over.  My last two birthday cakes for friends had been disasters. 

Let's first admire my latest success -- a simple coffee and almond cake from Jamie Oliver.
 It was originally a coffee and walnut cake, but I like almonds more.  I didn't get to eat it actually, I had brought it to the birthday party but then had to leave early to attend another thing.

It's just a simple coffee flavored sponge cake with some ground almonds in it.  Then it's sliced in half, filled with frosting and then glazed with icing.
I got this from Jamie Oliver, and the title of the cake was "Best Ever Coffee Walnut Cake".  That was..well, I haven't had that many coffee cakes, so I wouldn't argue with the fact that it was probably one of the better coffee cake recipes around.  So it depends on what you like and whether or not you trust Jamie.

And then there was the cake I had made for my friend Jess' birthday.  Hah.  This was awhile ago.  I didn't even bother photoshop it or anything, there's no way of making this photo better.   To be fair, it wasn't this yellow, it was the lighting.

Yea it looks like it exploded.  With expired milk on top.  I'm not going to go into this.

And then I don't have photographic evidence for the other one. 

The other one was bad, it didn't rise, but the other one was so bad that it's actually funny.  What's your worst cake disaster?

Recipe adapted Jamie Oliver
175g unsalted butter, cubed and softened, plus extra to grease
75g ground almonds
175g sugar
3 eggs, beaten
150g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
50ml cold espresso

Coffee Filling
65g butter
125g icing sugar
40ml strong espresso

Coffee icing
100g icing sugar
20ml strong espresso

Preheat the oven to 180C

Grease and line the base of a cake tin. 

Cream the butter in a bowl with the sugar until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the eggs then add the ground almonds and gently stir through

Fold the flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt through with a wooden spoon until just incorporated.

Stir in the espresso. 

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden/when a knife is inserted into the cake it comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool and make the filling and icing. 

For the filling
Put the butter in a bowl.  Sift in the icing sugar and beat until fluffy, then beat in the coffee.

For the icing
 Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and beat in the coffee to make a thick, smooth icing

Cut the cake in half with a knife and spread on one half the coffee filling. Top with the other half and drizzle over icing.   You can smooth it over with a palette knife or with a spatula.  Sprinkle over some almonds if you wish. 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Curried Eggplant Soup

I'm exhausted - I hate cleaning, well, I hate mopping and and wiping.  I never cease to amaze myself with my clumsiness.  I was twisting open my new bottle of prune juice and then, in slow motion, it somehow slipped out of my left hand and fell onto the coffee table before bouncing off to the ground.  The dark staining liquid flew out, making its way across the living room, marking its territory on the coffee table, floor, ceiling, couch, walls, my purse and shoes, my flatmate's jacket and iPad and binder filled with academic notes.  I've got this brown stuff on my face and clothes as well.  I look like a homeless wreck.

This is why I was not allowed to help my ex-boyfriend carry boxes when he was moving houses.

Anyway, I mopped and wiped and mopped and wiped and I'm just done.  Too exhausted too cook lunch, but no worries, because look what I had in my freezer! 

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