Sunday, 21 December 2014

Balsamic Garden Salad with Cashew Cheese

Summer calls for salads.  Something easy that requires lots of greens, something juicy, a sharp vinaigrette and creamy cheese is perfect.  Caeli's Strawberry Balsamic Salad with Cashew Cheese has been on my mind ever since she posted it.  Finally I made it, albeit with tomatoes and beetroot instead of strawberries.  It is the sort of salad that will welcome what is in the fridge and excite your taste buds. 

I'd highly recommend this dish for Christmas either as a side dish or even a light meal after all the feasting.  We had a little of the cheese leftover and loved it with crackers.  Sylvia wasn't keen on the cheese but she dipped her vegies in the vinaigrette and yelled out that I should make it every day.  That makes it child friendly in our house!

I am sending the avocado hummus to Healthy Vegan Fridays #27 hosted by Kimmy of Rock My Vegan Socks and Robin of Vegan Dollhouse.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Cabbage salad and digital disquiet
Two years ago: Cranberry, apple and butterscotch muffins
Three years ago: Buttermilk bread
Four years ago: Buns, soup and crunchie in yaz's kitchen
Five years ago: The Witchery - Scottish Fine Dining
Six years ago: Lentil Loaf with Chutney
Seven years ago: Nadine’s wild rice salad

Balsamic Garden Salad with Cashew Cheese
Adapted from Little Vegan Bear
Serves 2

2 large handfuls of baby spinach
1/2 green capsicum, chopped
1 small handful snow peas, sliced
2 small cooked beetroot, sliced
1 small tomato, sliced
snow pea sprouts, chopped

Cashew Cheese:
1 cup cashews, soaked
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Make the cashew cheese by blending all ingredients.

Lightly whisk dressing ingredients (or shake in a sealed jar).  Toss the spinach with about half the dressing.

Divide spinach between two bowls.  Arrange remaining salad ingredients in the two bowls.  Spoon dollops of cheese over the salad.  Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette.

NOTES: I only soaked the cashews for about an hour because I used a high speed blender.  I did take note of Caeli's advice not to make the cheese too smooth for the salad and left a little texture in it.  I found I had a little cheese and dressing leftover but they were gone before the end of the night.

On the stereo
There is no one what will take care of you: Palace Brothers

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Vegan chocolate mince pies and other Christmas foods

Can it really be only a week until Christmas day!  Inconceivable!  I feel I have done enough festive baking for the season already.  For a start, I've already made three batches of mince pies. But if there is another week, I reckon I might squeeze in another batch before the big day.  I have been enjoying experimenting with baking mince tarts and other Christmas foods.

I am not fond of making pastry.  It is fiddly and either too thick or too thin, too crusty or too soft.  And I really hate pastry recipes that call for an egg yolk.  I don't know what to do with an egg white.  It is not as though I make pavlova or meringues.

Last year I made chocolate pastry for mince tarts that had an egg yolk.  So this year, I decided to look for a vegan recipe to avoid the egg conundrum.  Having made this pastry three times I am quite happy with it.  The first time I baked it a bit long and it was too crisp.  Making three batches of mince pies has helped me hone the recipe so that I am really happy with it.

Above is the first batch of mince tarts I made in a patty pan tin.  Since then I have been making them in my mini muffin tins.  They are slightly smaller (a smaller star).  I have also experimented with some sparkly gold sugar dust.  I found that a liberal sprinkling over the star works really well and helps to make the star easier to see on the dark pastry.  (I tried sprinkling the sugar on after baking and it didn't stick but it seems to caramelise onto the pastry if sprinkled before baking.)

The reason that I have made three batches of mince tarts is that they are great for entertaining and picnics.  I made a batch for a carols service a couple of weeks ago.  Then I made a batch earlier this week to take to a Christmas party.  And yesterday I made some when Sylvia's school friend and family came for dinner.

I also took some cheese biscuits along to the Christmas party.  They are from Nigella's How to Eat (a bit like these.)  I made them to make sure Sylvia had something to eat other than crackers and sweet food.  She did rather enjoy them.  Though my favourite comment about the chocolate mince pies was when she took a bite of one and a friend laughed and said Sylvia had closed her eyes because they were so good.  Everyone enjoyed the mince pies at the party.

When Sylvia's schoolfriend came over, I decided to try a candy cane pizza.  I rolled the sourdough pizza dough into a long sausage, then flattened and shaped it on silicone sheets.  I spread them with tomato sauce and then place strips of cheese long them.  They looked really good when they went into the oven.  I baked them at 200 C for about 20 minutes.

When they came out of the oven, they were less impressive.  I must try them again.  (And there is still time before Christmas).  Next time I think I would either just spread cheese on the pizza and then arrange stripes of red capsicum or alternate stripes of tomato sauce and cheese.

As our guests were ready to go yesterday I remembered I had dessert.  Oops!  They stayed a little longer to sample the mince pies and some White Christmas.  I had made the White Christmas for a school end of year party yesterday and had brought home some leftovers.  Quite a few actually.  I wonder if today's children don't know about White Christmas.  I also think I might try it with half the coconut as I noticed some other online recipes do.

I made French Lavender Salt to give to Sylvia's teachers.  I didn't like the colour of the lids on the jars so Sylvia and I painted them.  I felt that I did a good job with the gift wrapping.  If you are like me and don't have great wrapping skills, you could check out 21 Festive Gift Wrapping Ideas by Jac (of Tinned Tomatoes) or these cute sparkly gift tags by Claire K Creations.

On the weekend, we had planned to go to another carols service but we were too tired.  However I still made pate and rice krispie slice.  I planned to make pale blue slice and cut it as snowflakes.  Something went wrong with some of the food dye and it turned out green. 

We used an Ikea set of cutters to make a 3D Christmas tree.  The first one I did was too warm and melted (like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz) while we put little icing star decorations on it.   I put the slice in the freezer before my second attempt at the tree and just drizzled it with white chocolate and sprinkled some gold sugar sparkles.  It lasted long enough for a photo!

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Cranachan-style breakfast parfait, park, stars and carols
Two years ago: NCR Snow Snow Snow and Edinburgh Botanics
Three years ago: Gifts in a Jar, Christmas quicklinks and Melbourne Christmas
Four years ago: Edible Gift Ideas for Christmas
Five years ago: Christmas Nut Roast in Scotland
Six years ago: Tree, Tarts and Punch
Seven years ago: Christmas Snowflake Biscuits

Chocolate mince pies
Adapted from Cake Crumbs
Makes about 24 small mince tarts

1 1/4 cups plain (all purpose) white flour
1/3 cup icing (confectioners) sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
2 tbsp ground almonds
2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
125g margarine or butter, chilled and chopped
1-3 tbsp cold water

1 cup fruit mince (approximately)
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate or choc chips
glittery sugar (optional)

Mix dry ingredients in food processor.  Add in margarine and process until mixed in.  Add 1 tbsp of water and process again.  Pinch mixture between your fingers and if it sticks it is done.  If it is still a bit crumbly add another tablespoon of water.  (I found it did not go into a ball in the food processor and it needed only 1 tbsp water.)  Tip mixture out of food processor (you wont need a floured surface).  Press together into a smooth ball with your hands.  Wrap in clingwrap and refridgerate for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 190 C.  Lightly grease 2 x 12 hole mini muffin tins.  Mix together fruit mince and chocolate.

Roll out pastry on baking paper until it is about 3mm thick.  (I would start with two thirds of the pastry and wrap the remainder and return to the fridge.)  Cut circles slightly bigger than your mini muffin holes.  (I use a scone cutter but even a glass would do.)  Carefully place circle on mini muffin hole and use your fingers to gently push it in and against the edges to form a little cup.  Drop spoonfuls of fruit mince mixture into each cup to fill it to the top.  Cut out little stars (or circles if you prefer) and place on top of the fruit mince.  Sprinkle with glittery sugar.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.  (15 minutes for me.)  When they are baked, leave in the tin for about 5 minutes and then carefully pop out onto wire rack.  Cool and then store in an airtight container.

On the stereo:
Winter Songs: The Albion Christmas Band

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas in Melbourne, salt dough decorations and quicklinks

'Tis the season for twinkling Christmas tree lights, for shiny excited eyes of children, for pleasing others with great creative gifts and baking.  'Tis the season for looking for that extra ounce of energy to make it all happen. Let's take a walk through some of the Christmas goings-on around Melbourne.

I sometimes feel a little like these stars I found in that city that looked like they were trying to climb the stairs. (Most of the stars were hanging up high so I guess these were those lagging behind!)

I am fascinated by the Christmas merchandising in the supermarkets.  Gingerbread house kits seem all the rage.  I really liking the novelty of making an Outback Shack gingerbread house.

I was also surprised to see the Heston Blumethal's Christmas puddings range in Coles.  The hidden orange doesn't enthuse me.  I am more tempted by his puddings with caramel filling and chocolate filling.

And all these Christmas goodies have been on the shelves so long that now they are being sold at cut prices!  That is Christmas craziness!

Woolworths has lots of Christmas baking package mixes that are just gimmicks.  Take for instance the Betty Crocker's Fruit Mince Mini Tarts.  What more does it offer than a packet of shortcrust pastry and a jar of fruit mince?  Or the Green Christmas Cupcakes which seem just like regular cupcakes with some christmas sprinkles.

We planned to go to two carols services this year.  Christmas got the better of us and one carols service was all we could manage.  Sylvia decorated two stars for the outdoor Christmas tree and queued to see Santa.

Above are a few more images of the carols as well as some esoteric ones.  In the centre is one from the Melbourne City Square.  We went there last week to see the Christmas tree and decorations in the square.  Sylvia enjoyed the poles that kids could touch to make bells ring.  (We were too early to see the Town Hall light show.)

When planning to go into the city, we despaired of finding any Christmas meals.  It isn't like in Edinburgh where every pub has festive dishes on the menu at this time of year and I am always able to find a vegetarian meal.

We had dinner at Lord of the Fries.  Just chips and a mini burger.  Then we saw that Krispy Kreme had a few Christmas doughnuts.  It is the first time I have had a good reason to buy a doughnut from Krispy Kreme.  We shared this cute snowman doughnut, covered in white chocolate and filled with lots of sticky jam.

We wandered along to Myer through the Block Arcade and Royal Arcade which are always festively festooned!  Here is Crabtree and Evelyn's window display at the entrance to the Block Arcade.  Inside we were very tempted by all the marvellous Christmas chocolates at Haig's.

Myer Christmas windows is a Melbourne tradition.  I have been going to see them ever since I can remember.  Each year they have displays with moving parts that tells a story. (This year was Santa Claus and the Three Bears.) They have become more technically sophisticated but children still find them magical.  Then we went to visit Santa at Myer.  It was late and there were no queues.

At Sylvia's school it has been busy with end of school year activities - instrumental concert, diorama displays, end of year parties, catch up ukelele lessons, anticipation about whose class she will be in next year.  I really like the Christmas tree outside her classroom.

A few weeks back we made salt dough tree decorations.  Sylvia decided to give some to friends, teachers and cousins.  You can see the finished decorations at the top of the post.  And yes there are some snowflakes a la Frozen.

And here is our Christmas tree that we decorated on the weekend.  Sylvia is delighted with it.  You can't see individual decorations in this photo but I can assume you there is a Frozen salt dough snowflake there.

Finally here are a few foodie Christmas quicklinks:

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Coburg Night Market 2014

It seems we have become regulars at the Coburg Night Market this year.  It runs on the four Friday nights before Christmas each year.  So far we have been to three out of three markets.  The markets offer lots of interesting food trucks, heaps of great craft stalls, and friendly local faces.

I have taken Sylvia and E has joined us after work a couple of times and the last Friday my parents came along and E met us before we picked up Sylvia from a school sausage sizzle.  Each time we have arrived early and watched the markets fill up as the evening darkens. 

Upon entering the market, I am constantly amazed by the richness of colours, sights, sounds and fabrics.  This is the Thairiffic stall which sells really beautiful lanterns as well as clothing.

Sylvia loves the potato twists with the salt and vinegar seasoning.  She never gets through a whole one.  They are nice but very very salty.

My favourite meal has to be the pad thai from the unfortunately named Eat The Chicken.  I had a taco which I liked but would have been better if I had opted for some guacamole on it.  I also enjoyed some curries and dosa but it was a bit on the spicy side for me.

It feels like there are plenty of options for vegetarians.  I also could have had the corn on the cob or some gozleme.  I also fancied the broad bean and pea arancini with cabbage salad from Nonna Carmela's food truck that I visited at the Batman Market a few weeks back.

Dessert is covered too.  Sylvia's favourite ice cream truck is Bianco Latte.  Don't be fooled if you get there early and find it looking quite.  It doesn't take long for the queues to form for the artisan gelato served from the cutest truck.  I loved their peanut butter and nutella ice cream but Sylvia and E were quite taken by the salted caramel.  E and my dad loved Madam Proffertjes.

I challenge you to find a more Aussie trio of ice creams available than pavolva, mango and tim tam.  The first two are from the Bianco Latte.  The tim tam ice cream is from Mercato Gelato and was amazing.  If you fancy something healthier there are chocolate covered strawberries, tubs of cherries or cut mango to enjoy at Market Juice.  I can vouch for the strawberries which are huge but oh so good.

You wont be lacking for drink options either.  I loved the Bruce Cost ginger ale.  We took some away but there is the option of drinking it at the market.  I also sampled some of my mum's sangria.  It is just right for a balmy summer evening.  Others may prefer the offerings of Yarra Coffee or Brown's Corner Hotel.

Take your food and drink to sit on the lawn (or a seat if you happen to nab one) and enjoy the music.  When we have been there early, the kids have time to dance in front of the bands but the area fills up quickly as more and more families arrive with their picnic rugs, prams and friends.

Once the kids are fed and happy, there is time to look about at the other stalls.  I really loved the jewellery making at Love Da Bead.  (They do Pretty Little Things jewellery making parties.  Wouldn't they be fun!)  Sylvia made a blue necklace.  Inspired by Frozen, of course!

As well as jewellery making and dancing, the kids can be entertained with balloons, face painting, hennae tattoos (and let's not tell them about the free lollies!!!!)

If you are shopping for Christmas gifts, you have come to the right place.  You can find soap, chutney, fresh peanut butter, clothes, badges, jewellery, chilli jam, strands of flower lights, mini terrariums, or tea towels with Melbourne suburbs printed on them.

Many stores have really lovely displays.  I loved the fascinating pieces of jewellery in the cubbyholes at Silver Addict.

I really loved the sauces and seasonings at Saori Premium Japanese.  I really wanted the soya and seaweed sauce but moved on too quickly.

E was particularly happy to find a $1 tub of vinyl records at the first market we attended.  After that it seemed to disappear.

One of the lovely aspects of such markets is being able to talk to the people who make the items.  The woman at Mavara Edu who made these beautiful dresses was very friendly.  She also made gorgeous boxer shorts for men and women.  I loved the jewellery by her neighbour Courtesy Please who made some delicate woven earrings like colourful spider webs.  And E got to ask the guy with the muso prints on t-shirts if there was a possibility of one with Leadbelly.

One of my favourite stalls was the Wawa Chocolatier.  The chocolate wasn't cheap at $13 a block but it was amazing.  The flavours on offer were Lavender Honeycomb and Cocoa Nib; Mint Caramel Crisp; Toasted Sourdough; Fried Almond and Smoked Salt; and Blueberry and Blue Corn. I bought a block of the lavendar honeycomb and cocoa nib.  It was so smooth and moreish with chewy honeycomb infused with lavender flavour.

If you are really into the festivities, there are some Christmas goodies to be bought.  (Elf poop, anyone?)

Finally the market would be getting really busy and Sylvia would be very tired.  We all were.  It was time to head home, making someone very happy to snap up our car park!  (They are like hen's teeth around the market but there are more parking spots near the town hall apparently.)

There is only one more week to go.  I highly recommend you head down there next Friday if you live nearby.  A few stalls change each week but are mostly the same.  It really does feel like the place to bump into friends and enjoy the buzz of a suburb that is the place to be.

Read my Coburg Night Market 2013 post.

Coburg Night Market
Bridges Rd Reserve
(03) 9640 0028
Last market for 2014: Friday 19 December.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Avocado hummus, Veg sausage rolls, White chocolate and ginger cookies

'Tis the season for entertaining and picnics, for sharing food and having quick meals before going out.  Yes it is that time of year when normal meals go out the window.  Indeed we have had so many evenings where the fun takes precedence over eating sensible meals.

So today I have a few recipes that are perfect for the festive time of year: avocado hummus dip for that quick bite before gift shopping, sausage rolls for carols and white chocolate and ginger cookies to share with colleagues.

The avocado hummus was made in a rush because I was off to meet some friends.  I have fancied trying hummus in my new blender and I had some avocado and parsley to use up.  I had to use the tamper stick a bit to push it down but it was pretty smooth. 

The hummus has a been a great quick lunch a few times because I have been rushing about with not a lot of time to sit down and think about lunch.  It is great with crackers or on toast.  The santa dipper is optional!

We were at a carols service on the weekend and took along a picnic dinner.  I baked sausage rolls.  Clare recently posted a vegetarian sausage roll recipe that is quite similar to my favourite sausage rolls but without the nuts and with simpler seasoning.  I have had a quest to find some good nut free sausage rolls.  So I had to try.

My main concern with the recipe is that it seemed to use a lot of cottage cheese.  So I halved it and added carrot.  Even so I found it quite creamy for my tastes.  Though it wasn't quite as creamy the next day when the sausage rolls had sat overnight and the filling had thickened.  I am wondering if some cooked quinoa and extra seasoning (like in Leah's sausage rolls) would make it more to my liking. 

I have just seen that this is my ninth sausage roll recipe on my blog!  But you can never have too many.  And they were great at the picnic.  It was an overcast evening but we had a lovely time.  Sylvia was very happy to see santa and hung stars on the outdoor Christmas tree.  We all enjoyed sausage rolls, dips, vegies, crackers, chocolate mince tarts and fruit.

The final recipe is based on some Chewy Cinnamon White Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies that I found Eats Well with Others (I found it on Joanne's 20 must-have holiday cookies list that I recommend for baking inspiration.)  I had a surplus of white chocolate melts after making an owl cake.  I made it in the spirit of the cookies rather than following the recipe.  That means I just put in the leftover glace ginger and marshmallows and a few cranberries for festive cheer.  I also added some molasses and spices for a slightly gingerbread flavour.

As I was making these before going off to help out with some community activities, I took them along for my colleagues.  They loved them.  As do E and I.  Sylvia was hot and cold on them.  I think she loved them when she struck a marshmallow and wasn't so sure when she chomped on the glace ginger.  My mum also enjoyed one before Sylvia's school instrumental concert.  (She overcame her nerves to play ukelele solo in front of her school buddies.)

These cookies (or bikkies as we might call them) were fantastic and soft on the day of making, and fragile by evening.  Possibly as a result of me veganising the recipe (except for the white chocolate chips but they would also work with dark chocolate chips - after all what doesn't!) and possibly they needed another minute or two in the oven.  Whether fresh or fragile, they were delicious and very addictive.  Lovely festive food to share.

I am sending the avocado hummus to Healthy Vegan Fridays #26 hosted by Kimmy of Rock My Vegan Socks and Robin of Vegan Dollhouse. I am sending the sausage rolls to Vanesther at Bangers & Mash (and Lou at Eat Your Veg) for Family Foodies with this month's theme of Festive Food.  And lastely I am sending the cookies to Kat of the Baking Explorer (and Stu of Cakeyboi) for Treat Petite with the theme of Christmas.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Gingerbread village and other gingerbread
Two years ago: Peebles, Snow and the Prince of India
Three years ago: CC Chesapeake tempeh cakes for carols
Four years ago: Buns, soup and crunchie in yaz's kitchen
Five years ago: Christening Cake
Six years ago: Festive Shortbread
Seven years ago: SHF #38 Christmas Pudding

Avocado Hummus
Adapted from
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 avocado
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tahini
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
juice of 1/2 lemon
Handful parsley
1 tbsp hot sauce (I used Franks)
1/4 tsp salt

Blend in food processor or blender until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Sausage rolls with cottage cheese, oat and carrot
Adapted from The Life of Clare
Makes about 30-36 small sausage rolls

1 cup rolled oats
1 egg
1 tbsp soy sauce (2)
1 onion finely diced
250g cottage cheese
1 small carrot, finely grated

To assemble:
3 sheets of puff pastry
milk for glazing
sesame seeds for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 220 C and line a couple of oven trays with baking paper.

Mix rice with carrots, cheese and tomato paste.  Add seasonings to taste.

Lay out a sheet of (defrosted) pastry and cut in half lengthwise.  Spoon filling along the middle of the length of each piece of pastry.  Brush long edge with a little milk and roll pastry around filling so there is a slight overlap.  Move onto a prepared tray.  Make deep slashes with a sharp knife to designate 6 pieces.  Glaze with milk.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Repeat with remaining pastry until you have used up all the filling.

Bake for 40 minutes at 200 C and 10 minutes at 200 C or until golden brown.  (I usually bake sausage rolls in at last 2 batches as I don't have enough trays to bake them all at once.)  Can refridgerate or freeze and reheat in oven.

White chocolate chip and ginger cookies
Adapted from Eats Well With Others
Makes 3 dozen

4 tsp ground linseeds (flaxseed)
3 tbsp water
165g margarine or butter
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp molasses
1 cups white self raising flour
1/3 cup wholemeal flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate soda (baking soda)
1/2 tsp mixed spice (pumpkin spice)
1/2 tsp salt
200g white chocolate chips
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dessicated coconut
1/3 cup glace ginger
1/4 cup marshmallows

Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F).  Line baking trays with baking paper.  Soak ground linseeds in water.

Cream margarine and sugars  Stir in molasses, then flours, bicarbonate soda, mixed spice and salt.  Gently mix in remaining ingredients.

Drop heaped tablespoons on the prepared trays with 1.5 inches between.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until edges start to brown..  Cool on tray or baking paper (I need to reuse the baking trays for more batches so I gave the cookies a few minutes to cool and then transfer the piece of baking paper with cookies on it onto a wire rack to cool.)  Best eaten on the day of baking.  Keeps in an airtight container for about 3 days.

On the stereo:
Christmas in the heart: Bob Dylan