Monday, July 6, 2015

What's in my kitchen, July 2015

Just like that, half the year is over. Where did that half a year go? Getting up in the mornings is just that little bit harder now... not to mention getting up constantly overnight is just awful! There is a reason they make small people so cute and loveable isn't there?! Since I'm mentioning cold nights, I need to work it in somehow that it's pretty hard to top the combination of snuggly winter pyjamas, ugg boots, a nice fuzzy blanket (and a warm body to share it with, in my case it's equally likely to be Mr Fork, a toddler, a nursling or even a fur baby) and a cup of chocolate in hand... but I digress.

In my kitchen is...

Lots of lurid coloured pancakes. Ellie and Jimmy love pancakes. I make them pretty often, either with my leftover sourdough starter, or just regular pancakes. We have them for breakfast and for snacks. Lately, I'd been adding some colours to make them a little more interesting and fun. See below for green, blue, and plain examples.
It was a good experiment, but I'm ceasing the colouring now because let's just say it made for interesting (and slightly panicky!) toilet talk. Plain and equally delicious pancakes it is then! I feel that I need to mix up what I do with my sourdough starter leftovers though. It is delightfully crumpet-like weather...

In my kitchen is...

Sourdough experimentations. I've recently become more confident with my sourdough making. My loaves are turning out with more consistency, so I've started to experiment a little. I'm playing with different flour mixtures, adding fruit additions into the loaves, and the deliberate inclusion of extra steam and moisture into the baking process.

I'm currently loving the addition of buckwheat flour into the mixture. It seems to make my loaves just a little bit denser with a much firmer and crustier crust (I also use a cornmeal coating as well). The crustier crust may be due to extra steam as well, it's hard to isolate the variables as I want to try so many new things at once!
With the fruit, I'm still perfecting when to add it to the mix, and how much is a good amount. My first attempt, with just figs added after the first rise, turned out to be a bit stingy and not very evenly distributed. My second fruity attempt (shown above and below), I added figs, apricots and pepitas at the time I was adding starter and flour etc to the bowl. This was much better, and I even remembered to add extra water to the mix as well. The fruit plumped up more, distributed better and was a much tastier, if slightly more solid loaf. It could probably have done with more liquid in it to be honest.
Experimentation is fun (and delicious!)

In my kitchen is...

Beetroot and apple juice. I have cut down on drinking a lot of fluids unintentionally, as it's so cold and I don't reach for them as often. This was my attempt to kill two birds with one stone and up my vitamin and fluid intake at the same time. I wouldn't say that this is something I could drink in large quantities, but it's a nice change every now and then. I certainly can't comment on it assisting athletic performance (seriously Sunraysia?!), but it does have an earthy, sweet sort of taste that makes me feel like I'm being healthy. I water it down a bit to be honest as I find most commercial juices a bit too much for me in their pure state.

Please excuse my little photo bomber in the background. Seems whenever I pull the camera out, she thinks its for the express purpose of photographing her...

In my kitchen is...

A collection of blossoming tea balls, sent to me by a dear friend who knows how much I love a good cup of tea. Especially welcome in the colder months if I do say so myself! The pink bloom is lotus, the yellow is camomile and the plain is jasmine.
I find that this style of tea doesn't taste any different from loose leaf varieties, but it is lovely to watch brew. Basically, it's tea leaves shaped into a flower shape and then a decorative flower added on top. I believe they are generally hand shaped and then lightly steamed to hold the ball shape. You need a clear teapot to get the full effect, but as you brew it for the first time, the ball unfolds and 'blooms' into a flower. The hot water makes the tea flower move around prettily. I keep meaning to get a video of it, but I watch in awe each time and forget to sit watching behind a screen. Each ball is good for maybe three tea infusions, but it's the first brew that's the most visually stunning.

In my kitchen is...

Parsley pesto. This was a bit of a made up recipe, mainly to cope with the abundance of parsley that is taking over one of my garden beds.
It turned out surprisingly delicious, although if you are not a parsley fan, it's definitely not the sort of thing you should be making. I made it fresh and served over some rigatoni pasta that night, and since then I've been adding the leftovers to sandwiches for a burst of green freshness, and also dolloped over homemade pizza. It really added a touch of refreshing taste of summer to what might have easily been stodgy, carb-heavy meals. I'll be making this again for sure!

I am linking this post in with Fig Jam and Lime Cordial's monthly In My Kitchen event. Go have a peek through other kitchens around the globe!

What's in your kitchen this month?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Recipe: Parsley Pesto

My garden is overrun with a prolifically producing parsley plant (try saying that three times quickly!). Much as I love parsley, adding it to sauces, stews and other meals as a seasoning just wasn't cutting down on the supply as quickly as I'd hoped. I thought about making a tabbouleh salad, but when I checked the meal plan and saw we were having pasta that night, the idea of a parsley pesto was born.

It's not a very traditional pesto - I didn't have any nuts to add to it, so I substituted tahini. I also left out the cheese, choosing instead to use nutritional yeast. Despite all of that, or perhaps in spite of the changes, it was a delicious concoction, tasting fresh and green and yummy. It made way more pesto than I needed for pasta (I filled a 250g jar), so I've also been eating it in sandwiches and dolloped on top of pizza.


Parsley Pesto
printable link

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups parsley leaves
  • 1 tblsp tahini
  • 2 tblsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves peeled garlic
  • tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon (or to taste)
Method:
  1. Place everything in a processor and process until desired consistency.
Notes:
  • This will keep very nicely in the fridge for some time (although I don't think it will last long at the rate it's being eaten!)
  • I hate waste, so I froze the parsley stems for use in a soup or stew or to make stock
Do you have a favourite, non traditional, type of pesto?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fame Theatre Company: Little Red Riding Hood

Throughout my school years, I always did some kind of dance. It started with ballet, then when I realised I didn't really have a traditional ballerina body, I tried all types: jazz, hip-hop, street latin, ballroom, pole dancing, you name it! In high school, I still danced, I sang first soprano in the school choir, I played clarinet in the band, and if there was a theatre production happening, you better believe I was going to be in it! I've performed on stage and I've worked as stage crew and I just love live stage shows - there is something about the atmosphere and energy of them!

I was therefore super excited to be offered tickets to see the Fame Theatre Company's production of Little Red Riding Hood, showcasing the talents of the children who train there in performing arts and musical theatre.
In the tradition of Fame school holiday productions, the show has a large cast of singers, dancers and actors as well as colourful stage sets, costumes, music and dancers.
I have to say, I do have a soft spot for musical theatre, and I rather enjoyed the performance. There was humour pitched at the adults of the audience, and plenty of songs and dancing pitched at the younger members. There were plenty of pop culture references, and lots of repetition so that children could become familiar with songs and enjoy taking part in the toe tapping. My toddler companion was mesmerised and was clapping with lots of enthusiasm by the end. The big bad wolf and his weasel companion were one of the show highlights for me, although I was so impressed with the standard of all performers.
I was particularly excited to see that there were two volunteer AUSLAN translators on stage, and thought they did a marvellous job interpreting.

Perfectly timed to run during the June/July school holidays, Little Red Riding Hood is showing at the Brisbane Multicultural Arts Centre, 102 Main St, Kangaroo Point from 30th June to 4 July. Performances are at 10am and 1pm daily, and tickets are $18.

http://www.fametheatre.com.au/THEATRE/

Disclaimer: I attended the show as a guest of Fame Theatre. All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Recipe: Spicy papaya salad

To be honest, it's a bit cheeky to call this a recipe since it really is just throwing a whole bunch of things into a bowl and letting the flavours combine. I got so many comments about it when I served it at a dinner recently though, that I thought I better document it anyway! It's so colourful and delicious, and the spicy chilli dressing makes it a good winter option.

It reminds me of being in Thailand, where I ate so much of this salad - but every time I ordered it, I had to specify: extra chilli, no fish sauce, no shrimp, no meat, more peanuts please! With my version, at least I know there is nothing in it I wouldn't eat!

I started off wanting to make a green papaya salad, however, when I cut open my green-on-the-outside papaya, it was not so green anymore, but I decided to go with it anyway! It's a very flexible salad, I've given you the quantities I used, but feel free to change it up to your own tastes and add or remove things as you want (as I mentioned, the traditional version would include shrimp and fish sauce too).
Spicy Papaya Salad
printable link

Ingredients:
  • 1 green papaya, grated (yield, about 2 cups)
  • handful green beans, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 large carrot, grates (about 1/4 cup)
  • punnet of cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small red chilli, minced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp raw sugar
  • salt to taste
  • Optional: roasted peanuts, finely sliced lettuce
Method:
  1. In a mortar and pestle, mix together the chilli and garlic before adding the lime juice, sugar and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, add the papaya, carrot, beans and cherry tomatoes. 
  3. Pour the garlic/chilli mixture over the top, and mix everything together. Cover tightly (so the smell of garlic doesn't permeate the fridge) and let it sit in the fridge while the flavours marinate.
  4. To serve, dish up and sprinkle with the peanuts.
Notes:
  • I had intended to mix lettuce into my salad but I completely forgot to add it. I don't think it lacked anything, but it would totally work in there too for a bit of extra crunch.
  • You could also substitute the lettuce for cabbage instead.
  • The dressing is quite spicy, but I like a little heat. You could easily leave the chilli out, or serve them at the end sprinkled on top as well.

I served it alongside burgers, to add some vegetables into a carb filled meal. It was a perfect accompaniment!

I have submitted this salad to the July 2015 No Croutons Required

Do you eat salads in winter?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Poultry in motion

Let me tell you the story about how we came to have chickens. See, we'd been thinking about getting a few backyard hens for ages, and then everything sort of fell into place: a chicken coop came up on our local freecycle page, it was a long weekend so Mr Fork could make coop repairs and build a chicken run, we had time to go to a farm and have a look around and see what was what. Despite not eating eggs myself, Mr Fork and Ellie do, and chickens are wonderful garden assistants and scrap eaters.

Mr Fork is a bit of an impulsive person. So despite me, his country raised wife, saying that perhaps it was better to do some more research, get point-of-lay chickens, or perhaps do some more investigation into breeds and preferences, he insisted that everything would work out.

As soon as he saw them he was set on silkie bantams because they were just so cute and so much smaller than full sized hens. Of course, being the thrifty sort, he also said that he would like to get day old chicks as they were much cheaper than the older point of layers. Now I've never personally raised chickens myself, but I grew up in rural farm country, so I do know that day old chicks take a fair amount of work, especially cute fluffy little purebreeds and who in their right mind gets day old chicks in winter?! Being on maternity leave still, I also knew who would be doing the care and raising of these baby chicks should we get them...
Anyway, he'd said all of this in front of Ellie, so naturally, we came home with three of the teeeeeeeniest little silky bantams I have ever seen. I think they were literally only 7-10 days old. They were promptly christened Sarah, Vanessa and Jemima (thank you Peppa Pig for your chicken naming inspiration).
Vanessa
The chicks lived in a box in our sunroom, with a heat lamp, fresh food and chick pellets daily, a meticulously cleaned floor and oft-refreshed bedding and plenty of interaction from the loving humans around them. Despite that, over the course of a week and a bit, all three of the teeny babies didn't make it. I suspect they were not well to start with, but certainly their size and the weather didn't help.

As we have the setup, and Ellie has been so enthusiastic about having chickens, Mr Fork was not deterred, and promptly hastened out for replacements. Now, instead of delicate bantams, we have two Rhode Island Red/White cross, and two of what I suspect are Wyandotte or Australorp cross. These are not bantams, but full sized chickens, and probably about 5 or 6 weeks old now.
Ellis has named them Sarah (again), Jemima (again), Vanessa (again) and Neville, as that was also a Peppa Pig chicken name. Despite my suggestion that Neville was a boy's name and we (hopefully) have female chickens, she insisted. I compromised and Neville is now pronounced as Nev-ill-ay. I realise that this is not a particularly good name for an egg chicken (Never-lay anyone?). 

They will be living indoors with a heat lamp for some time more until they are bigger and hardy enough to relocate to their outdoor accommodation on a permanent basis (they do get supervised outdoor time at the moment too).
Any tips or tricks you can offer about raising tiny chickens and keeping them healthy and alive will be accepted with gratitude.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Morning tea with Medela

Jimmy, Ellie and I recently went to morning tea with Medela at the Brisbane Pregnancy, Babies and Children's expo.

I've talked a bit about my breastfeeding journey with Jimmy here. He is now eight months old and we are still going strong. I recall him being five weeks old and not knowing how I could keep going. When we went to have his tongue and lip ties corrected, I remember the dentist asking me how long I intended to breastfeed him for, and without needing any thought, I answered with "as long as he wants to". It's been a hard journey though, and I still constantly wonder if I'm doing a good job, if he's latching correctly, if I have enough milk, if he's getting too much/not enough... and so on. And yet... look at him!
He is obviously healthy, and happy, and doing well.., and if I have to co-sleep and feed him every few hours around the clock to keep him that way, then so be it. I won't sugar coat it though, it is hard! I just keep telling myself he is only little for such a short time, and to enjoy being his happy place. When I do go back to work, I know that my Medela Swing pump will help me provide Jimmy with milk for when I can't be there to feed him directly.

Anyway, this morning tea was a lovely supportive experience. It really showed me that there are organisations out there who are passionate and informative and so enthusiastic about helping mothers to be educated and supported to feed their babies.
Katie James, a midwife/lactation consultant who works for Medela spoke about the latest statistics and research about 'normal' breastfeeding... and really emphasised that there is no such thing! Some information that I found interesting (my emphasis) was:
  • In Australia 96% of mothers choose to breastfeed their baby from birth. While this is a fantastic statistic, we see that rate drop dramatically in the first few months; in the second month full breastfeeding (this is where no other food or drink is fed to baby) rates have dropped to 57% and by 5 months under 30% are still fully breastfeeding.
  • The most common reason given for mother’s ceasing breastfeeding is the belief they do not have enough milk, often because their baby feeds frequently/more than other babies.
  • Jackie Kent and The Hartmann Lactation Research group in the University of WA looked at many mothers and infants from the ages of 1-6 months and found that there were great variations of normal! For example once a baby is growing well a breastfed baby may feed anywhere from 4-13 times in 24 hours, boys do eat more than girls, and yes it is very normal for babies to feed at night, with 2/3rds of all babies drinking 20% of their milk between 10pm and 4am!
There is a lovely downloadable infographic that explaining all the research here.

One thing about the morning that I particularly enjoyed was hearing about how Medela is charitably contributing towards supporting Bangladeshi mothers to breastfeed for longer. There is a high morbidity and mortality rate in the country due mainly to early cessation of breastmilk feeding and the introduction of infant formula combined with poor sanitation. Medela Australia have donated pumps and have a volunteer on the ground working to educate families and employers about breastfeeding, expressing, cup feeding and providing so much more ongoing support. Due to limited maternity leave, mothers in Bangladesh often return to work once their babies are two months old, and with up to 14 hours a day, 6 days a week.

I feel privileged that I have had eight uninterrupted months at home with Jimmy, and so much help and assistance to breastfeed him. I am proud that I have provided for my baby and nourished him so well. Of course, any way a mother chooses to feed her child is fabulous, but for me and this baby, this is what works for us.

Thanks to Medela, I have a $50 Medela voucher to giveaway to one lucky With A Fork reader. To enter, leave a comment below telling me the most valuable advice you would give to a new mother.
Entries open Tuesday 23 June 2015 and close Tuesday 30 June 2015 at 7.00pm AEST. Entry is open to Australian residents only. Prize will be delivered by Medela, With A Fork takes no responsibility for prize delivery. If I do not hear back from the winner within two days of notification, the prize will be redrawn. ONE entry per person please. This competition is in no way endorsed, promoted or administered by Facebook. 

Good luck!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A bit Hippy haircare and nappy balm

In addition to the sweet Winter Warrior skincare essentials from A bit Hippy I recently posted about, they were kind enough to give me a few extra samples to try as well.

I was particularly interested in the samples of Ditching' the Itching' Scalp Loving Shampoo and Say No to Silicon Scalp Loving Conditioner. With some natural shampoos and conditioners I find that the shampoo isn't foamy and I need miles of conditioner to make my hair soft. Not with these babies! My hair was left lovely and clean, with no itchy, flaky bits. Again, I'm really impressed that I can use these products on everyone in the house so there is no need to clutter up the shower with specialty products for each person.
Jimmy obligingly needs a couple of nappy changes daily, so I've also had a chance to use the Happy in my Nappy rash balm. I don't always use cream on him, but because he's been sick recently he's needed a bit of extra protection in the nappy area. His irritated red skin has disappeared and he's back to being smooth as a babies proverbial there! I do have a few tiny little annoyance with the cream though. Maybe because it's been so cold, and the cream is just packed full of natural oils, but I found it quite hard and needed to really dig it out of the container to use. It probably wouldn't be a problem in warmer months, but this did make spreading it a bit painful. Also, it contains zinc, which means I can't use it with my cloth nappies. Otherwise, I really loved it for use with disposable nappies

Disclaimer: Thanks to A bit Hippy for providing these gorgeous natural products for editorial consideration!

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