the magic of hong cons

Hong Cons

I love Converse shoes. If I had to wear one pair of shoes for the rest of my life they would be cons: All Stars, of course. They’ve got to be the most versatile shoe. You can walk for days, dance for hours, and with a rubber sole like that, you can clean out the gutters without a fear of sliding off the roof. And, if I’m not too fussy, I can make them work with any outfit.

So I kinda live in the county, right. So there’s kinda no shops around here. So I default to the online mega-mall: ebay.

I don’t understand why there isn’t a universal shoe size. My first pair of cons are a size 4 now with holes in the soles. The next ones, worn out and tired, are a 4 ½. I chalked that up to a spreading foot and ordered a replacement pair of 4 ½ shoes from Hong Kong. These are too big. And I mean like clown shoes too big. I hid them from my husband somewhere in the garage and ordered another pair, size 3.

I’m truly not sure which shoes are the counterfeit shoes and I have no idea what size I am. That’s the magic of Hong Cons. So I’ve been thinking, if there can’t be a universal shoe size, we need to add the counterfeit size to the list of sizes.

“Do you know your size?”, enquires the shoe store attendant wearing the obligatory shoe store pair of shoes.

“Oh yes, I do!”, I proudly announce. “I’m a European 36, USA 5.5, UK 3.5, Japanese 22.5, and a Counterfeit 3… Do you have these in a counterfeit size 3?”

cauliflower and roast almond soup

cauliflower and almond soup

½ head cauliflower, florets
1 leek, white, chopped
1-2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ tbsp butter and/or 1 tbsp oil
about 700 ml water
1 tsp vegetable stock (use a light one or less than usual, you don’t want it to over power)
1 cup blanched almonds, dry roasted
salt and pepper, to taste

Dry roast almonds in the oven for about 10 mins at about 180c or until just turning golden brown.

In a soup pot, add the chopped leek and saute with butter and/or oil.
Add cauliflower florets, potatoes, stock, almonds and water.
Simmer for about 25 mins or until cauliflower and potatoes are soft, then (carefully, if hot and transferring liquids to a blender) blend to smooth.

Portion into approx. 250 ml capacity containers and freeze ready for work lunches.
At lunchtime, reheat in the office microwave.

Thermomix:
Add chunks of leek to bowl, chop on speed 5/5 sec. Scrape down sides, add butter/oil and saute 3 mins/speed 1/100c. Add cauliflower florets, potatoes, stock, roast almonds and water.
Set to 20 mins/speed 1/100c. Check cauliflower is soft buy pressing a floret against the side of the bowl (cook for 10 more mins if needed to ensure potatoes are soft), then puree on speed 6, gradually moving to speed 9, for about 40 sec or until smooth.

almond pulp: chocolate fudge

You won’t believe this is healthy sweet treat – it’s so yummy. These chewy chocolate fudge balls are a great use of left over almond pulp.

healthy fudge balls

2 cups almond pulp (leftover from making milk)
1/2 cup cashews
1 cup dates (fresh), pitted
4 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp shredded coconut
2 tbsp honey
pinch salt (omit if you are using salted cashews)
1/2 tbsp coconut oil

Place cashews, almond pulp, dates, cocoa, salt, coconut and coconut oil in your food processor to combine. Thermomix: speed 8/20 sec. The texture will be like a moist, reasonably fine crumble.
Add honey and process to combine until the mixture sticks together turning a dark chocolatey brown. Stop processing before it gets too fine and buttery. Thermomix: speed 2/15 sec scrape down and speed 2/15 sec. 
Line a freezer-proof small dish or baking pan with baking paper.
Press the mixture into dish with a spatula then freeze overnight.
Cut the block into small treat sized slices or roll into fudge balls.
Store in a ziplock freezer bag  and eat without defrosting.

nut fudge

sometimes life throws a newspaper at your car

I had been lamenting a time when I had time. I call it lamenting but it would have equated to a mere flashing thought amongst a constant stream of thoughts that I have lately.

I had just dropped off my little Bean at preschool and returned to my car. While starting the engine a car came to idle up beside me. The newspaper delivery guy was passing through. I can wait, I thought.

Next thing, he threw a newspaper smack-bang at the side of my car! Not skimming the roof of my car, or brushing past lightly, but an almighty thud right into the side of my car.

As he drove forward slightly he passed by the bewildered expression on my face. Face to face. I saw his humoured embarrassment and he saw my face move through surprise then confused delight. I waited for him to get out of the car, bend down and reposition the newspaper in a more compliant delivery location. But he didn’t.

He edged his car forward, made a 4 point u-turn and threw a newspaper at a parked car on the other side of the road. Thud. It fell to the roadside.

I don’t blame him for feeling exhausted (in his right arm) by the daunting task of throwing hundreds of newspapers out of his car window. And I’m sure the requirements of the job of newspaper delivery are very specific, “newspapers deliveries: Must be made on the driveway, not in the garden; Must avoid puddles; Must avoid pedestrians; Must avoid parked cars…” rules ,rules, rules. Sometimes, when you haven’t got time for bending over, the rules are for bending.

So what’s this got to do with my time? Well, had I rushed off, in my usual distracted, hurried fashion, I would have missed this opportunity to share faces with the newspaper delivery man.

Sometimes you’ve got to wait, while life throws a newspaper at your car, to remember that precious moments (and newspapers) come to those that are there to receive them (on the road).

Newspaper Delivery

image: http://www.gaebler.com/How-to-Start-a-Newspaper-Delivery-Business

scallop, apple and radish salad

scallop salad

This is a lovely little starter to a candlelight night dinner in with your loveliest friend. It’s light and fresh and oh so tasty. He’ll think you’re a closet kitchen dynamo… as opposed to a kitchen closet dynamo which I’m sure would be a hand vacuum.

12 scallops (roe removed if you prefer)
2 tbsp butter
1 green apple, sliced very thinly (or julienned as pictured)
2 tbsp lemon juice (squeeze the lemon juice on the sliced apple to keep it looking fresh and stop it browning)
2-4 radishes, julienned (if not serving immediately, place in an ice bath to keep crisp)
4 chives, snipped or torn
chive flowers (if you happen to have them in your kitchen garden)

dressing:
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
Prepare the julienned apple and radishes.
In a hot pan, fry the scallops in butter. Scallops don’t take long to cook – about 4 minutes each side.
Arrange the apple and radish on small plates, top with scallops, chives and a drizzle of dressing.

wild rice with pecan and orange

wild rice with chicken

A long time favorite in our house is this wild rice side dish. We love that its a little bit spicy, a little bit nutty, a little bit fruity and a little bit crunchy. More recently I’ve learnt that wild rice is also high in fibre, high in protein and a good source of B vitamins. Double whammy!

1 cup wild rice, cooked
1 cup brown rice, cooked
2 tablespoons orange zest
½ orange, juiced
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch salt
½ cup currants/raisins
½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons fresh coriander (or parsley), finely chopped

Combine orange rind, orange juice, clove, salt and olive oil in a large mixing bowl to make the dressing.
When the rice is cooked, add remaining ingredients (minus the pecans) to the bowl of dressing and gently combine to dress.
Top with pecans and serve as a side dish.

wild rice salad

Some ideas to serve with this walk on the wild rice side include:
– tofu steak, marinated in soy, lemon zest and garlic, then grilled
– chicken, marinated in lemon juice, thyme, pepper and olive oil, then grilled*
– white fish, grilled or poached with lemon wedges
– duck breast a l’orange and steamed green beans

*Serve with 1 tbsp soy mayo, 2 tbsp water, 1 tbsp lemon juice, whisked to combine and used to drizzled over the plate as chicken breast tends to be a bit drier.

(apple) cider (sorbet) spider

Remember being a kid and making soda spiders? Remember filling the glass ’til it overflows and then sucking the bubbles off the bench before someone saw you? Well, here’s the adult version and the best bit is, no one can tell you not too suck the bubbles off the bench now you’re a grown up!

Apple cider (I used Dirty Granny for this one but any nice cider will work wonderfully)
Mixed berry sorbet (mine was homemade but quality store bought will work perfectly)

Pour a nice tall glass of apple cider to about 3/4 full then add a scoop of berry sorbet. Slowly top up the glass if you want to avoid the frothy overflow. Or pour it in fast if you want to see the volcano.

This cider spider is sure to impress those who also struggle to grow up.

apple cider sorbet spider

dark chocolate and raspberry brownies

I’ve passed a significant mothering milestone: I baked for the school fund raiser. I’m a little bit proud of myself … don’t tell anyone that these brownies are super easy to make.

brownies choc raspberry

125g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate melts
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 180°C and grease then line a 20cm x 31cm baking tray with baking paper.
In a small saucepan melt butter and chocolate over a low heat (or microwave gently).
Once melted (but not so hot as to cook the eggs), add eggs and vanilla essence and beat to combine.
Add sugar, flour and baking powder, stir well to combine.
Add the raspberries and gently mix through, then pour into the baking tray.
Bake for 30 minutes. Ideally your brownie will have a crackling top with a fudgy middle.
Remove from oven and let cool for 15 mins in the tin before cutting into portions and leaving to cool on the rack.

I don’t bother with dusting with icing sugar, when you are eating something this yummy, you don’t need to be worrying about making a mess.

almond milk: homemade

I don’t eat much dairy these days. I find that if I divert too far from goat milk cheese and natural yoghurt I feel worse off. Yellow cheese rarely makes an appearance on my menu. To add to my fussiness, soy milk is expensive and it tends to curdle in my coffee. So with the help of my fan-dangled new kitchen tool (a thermomix), I decided to make my own milk – almond milk – and it was surprisingly quick and easy.

1 cup almonds (I used blanched but you can use raw almonds).
About 3 cups of water to soak almonds overnight (this will make them easier to blend).
In the morning, drain the almonds and place in the thermomix (or equivalent quality blender) with about 700ml clean water.
Blend almonds (gradually move from speed 6 to speed 9 for 40 sec) to achieve a fine grind of the almonds.
Place a nut milk bag* into a jug or line a sieve with muslin and pour the almond milk through the bag/muslin.
With clean hands, squeeze the milk out of the muslin into the jug.
You’ll be left with a jug of almond milk and a bag of almond pulp/meal.

Your homemade milk will last 3 -4 days in the fridge. Shake before use.
Adjusting the water content down will make a creamier milk.
Uses for almond pulp/meal to follow.
*nut milk bags are available from some health food shops and online.

almond milk coffee

red ginger refresher

raspberry detailThis mocktail (or with vodka optional) is a very refreshing sunny-day-sitting-on-the-lawn drink. Serve it in a big tumbler full of ice or in a champagne glass, it’s pretty enough to make any glass look impressive. If serving in a champagne glass, combine in a jug over ice and strain out the ice cubes as you pour into glasses decorated with raspberries and a mint leaf.

2 parts ginger beer
1 part cranberry juice
ice
frozen raspberries
mint
vodka (optional 30 ml per person)