a great day – lockdown 2 day 170

The eggs were dyed. And then some of them were hand-painted. Turns out the dye on the eggs isn’t very stable… Everything I painted white turned pink no matter how many layers I gave it. Live and learn. Next time I’ll try a white marker and see if that stays white.

Still, they turned out ok more or less. Please ignore the one I tried to do. That didn’t work well at all!

Meanwhile the cookies were a great hit. Here are the guys having a drink with the tray of finished cookies between them. So many cookies. Quite a few had already been gifted by then too.

The spanakopita turned out great, though I think I prefer it with less filling as it stays crunchier longer. Too much filling and it goes a bit soft. Me like crunchy pastry. Click here for the recipe.

Next time I make spinach pie I’ll make individual small ones. That way I can freeze some to bake at a later date instead of making a big tray and having to give most of it away cause how much spanakopita can one person eat? (In my case its A LOT, but maybe not the whole baking tray.)

Other than that it was a great day. I loved spending girl time with Zefi and her daughter cooking and chatting. I was even going to go for a swim with them but I discovered that I’d put three bikini tops in my bag and NO bottoms. Ooops.

Next time.

z

decoupaged dachie – lockdown 2 day 156

Getting around to sharing a dog sculpture I made a few months ago. I have more to share, some from before I got sick and others I finished since I’ve been back home.

This is a little dachie I finished with paper given to me by a friend.

As usual, he was started with toilet paper rolls, cardboard, wire, alfoil and tons of masking tape.

I build on the frame using a paper mache pulp mix and air dry clay for the details like the face and feet.

Looking at him again I’m thinking I need to do more with paper. Its different to the fabric ones. Effective and fun.

So, other than sharing another dog sculpture, what’s been going on?

Well, I made a spinach pie today (spanakopita) and its already finished cause I shared it with mom and the rest of the family. Must make another. Yum.

I also tried making the semolina pudding I love with Stevia instead of sugar. Everyone always says its sweeter than sugar so I put in less and its basically totally unsweetened. I may as well include a recipe for anyone who wants to try it.

Semolina pudding

This is a basic 1-2-3-4 recipe. The full recipe will make a bunt cake shape so its too much for me so I make half the amount.

  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • 2 cups semolina (coarse)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • Crushed almonds (optional but I love them)
  • Cinammon stick and cinammon powder for on top

Put the water, sugar and cinammon stick in a pot and bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the suger.

Brown the semolina in the oil. It will seem like it takes forever to begin to brown and then will look like its going to burn suddenly. Just use your judgement.

Remove pot from heat and add the water carefully. It will bubble and spit. You’ve been warned. Stir constantly. Once all the water is added, add the nuts and put back on the heat. Its ready when it begins to pull away from the sides and separates when you pull the wooden spoon through it.

At this stage you can put it in a mould and let it cool and set. Or just plop it in a bowl and dish it up by the spoonful like I do. Sprinkle cinammon on top when serving.

Notes:

I always use less sugar. If the recipe calls for 3 cups, I usually use 2. Making half the recipe I use 1 cup of sugar instead of 1.5. I’m trying to cut sugar out of my diet but I have a sweet tooth so I need SOME sugar.

If you’ re a visual person, you can find a recipe on Youtube to follow.

Enjoy.

z

banana popsicles – lockdown 2 day 151

Ever wonder what you could use those little plastic sticks they give you when you buy a takeaway coffee? They only usually give these ones when the coffee is travelling in a car (as in delivery) to stop the coffee from spilling out the hole in the cap.

I got one of these a couple of times and thought surely there must be something I can re-use them for rather than just tossing them out.

Well, it came to me the other day. Banana popsicles.

Given I’m trying to live a healthier life and given up sweets I make these as treats. Its not the same, but at least it gives me something to dampen down the desperate voice of my sweet tooth when it screams “I need ice cream!”

And frozen banana is surprisingly good.

Its easy. This is all you need to do: get some (preferably) very ripe bananas you no longer want to eat as they are. Peel them, cut them in half if you want, and put them in a baggie in the freezer. Done.

I’m using the plastic sticks as holders cause its very hard to stick a fork into a frozen banana and its not so much fun holding the melting banana in your hand.

You know what they say: necessity is the mother of invention. And no one is as inventive as me when I need something sweet.

z

food – lockdown 2 day 129


Gee time flies when you’re having fun. Its already day 129 of lockdown 2 and things aren’t looking any better despite all the great plans the government has for opening up the tourist season early. Record numbers of new cases almost every day…

Whatever. I’m spending my time doing as little as possible. Today I did some shopping, groomed a dog and cooked for the pups I’m looking after, and Lainee of course. I thought I’d share what I cook for Lainee. This was basically what I started making for her when she needed to lose some weight. The idea was loads of vegies and lean chicken.

Amy and Lily love their raw cabbage treats. They also love raw cauliflower and zucchini I learned today.


So… this is what I used today. Its basically the same each time but I tend to use what I have in the fridge as well. Frozen spinach, frozen mixed vegies, sweet potato, apple, red lentils, zucchini and about a kilo of chicken breast. I normally buy skin on and remove the skin myself cause its cheaper. Sometimes I’ll buy a whole chicken and keep the wings for Lainee (to eat raw) and the maryland (legs) for myself to bake, boil the entire rest of the chicken then pick the meat off and throw out the bones. I add pumpkin if I have it. And I add herbs: usually thyme, oregano, some garlic, pepper and turmeric. I mean, you want it to taste good!

I put the chicken and all vegies into a large pot with enough water to cover them and boil till its all cooked and the chicken is falling apart.

I remove the chicken to cool so I can pull it apart with my fingers. Then I mixed that back into the vegie mix.

The dogs LOVE it. Its healthy and non fattening. You could add a touch of olive oil for their coat when you’re serving it or any supplements like kelp or whatever, but I think its a pretty good meal.

Typical I spend more time cooking for the dogs than I ever do for myself (unless I’m cooking for company). My meal was much plainer but just as tasty. Bow pasta with broccoli and red pesto with a sprinkle of parmesan. Yum. I’m not complaining.

z

weetbix slice – lockdown 2 day 8

I love crunchy cookies.

I mean, I also love the soft and chewy Mrs Field’s cookies, but crunchy is my favourite in general.

This morning on errand #2 I stopped at the bakery to buy some crunchy cookies (cause I deserved it) only to find they were out. Oh no. So I bought what I thought LOOKED crunchy – oat and cranberry – but they were disappointingly soft in a not-so-delicious-as-Mrs-Field’s way.

So I looked through my recipe book for something I could make with what I had and found this weetbix slice a lady at one of my jobs in Tasmania used to make. Its really quick and easy and its superbly crunchy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup self raising flour (though I don’t know why plain wouldn’t do)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 weetbix (crushed)
  • 6oz (170g) butter

The instructions said to melt butter and mix with dry ingredients. I softened the butter and put it all into the food processor for a minute. Viola. Ready.

Press into a baking dish and bake till brown on top at 150C.

I probably had the oven at 160C and I also didn’t have the right size square baking dish so I used a pizza pan. I couldn’t cut it into nice squares so I broke it into pieces. So basically I did everything different except the ingredients. It worked out fine.

It took next to no time to make. Quick to bake and great to eat!

z

i ate too much – lockdown 2 day 5

Today I didn’t do much work. I mean creative work. I had a serious craving for vietnamese rice paper rolls so I put most of my energy towards that. I have coriander growing in a pot on my front patio and it inspires me to make thai and vietnamese food…

Oh, I also moved a couple of small bits of furniture around in the house, but that doesn’t really count.

I went to the supermarket, the grocer and a mini market to get the supplies I needed to make the rolls. And I spent a really long time on 3 phone calls.

But I did make the rolls, and they turned out amazing!

I’ve made them before so I already knew what I was doing. But I’d never made the peanut dipping sauce before. I’m glad I made it though, it really is the best way to eat the rolls.

This is the recipe I followed, very simple. And apart from having to have everything prepared in separate bowls to put together, really easy to make, even if you’re not sure how to roll them.

I made mine with prawns, some shredded leftover roast chicken breast, rice noodles, cucumber, lettuce, red pepper and carrot. And coriander of course. I skipped the avocado cause the only ones I found would have been more use as a weapon of mass destruction and cost more than I made in a hour at my last job.

End result: they were delicious. But maybe eating four of them was too much…

Meanwhile I’ve started another animal scultpure and worked further on one of the dogs… stay tuned.

z

yogurt ‘ice cream’ – lockdown 2 day 3

I’ve been promising to share my yogurt ice cream recipe for a while now and thought it was about time…

Before I get into specifics let me explain that I found this recipe in a magazine many years ago and made it, loved it, and have since been trying to make it less fattening and guilty making. So, basically, its not the original recipe any more!

So… originally the recipe called for 750g yogurt, 400g cream, whipped, 1 cup fruit, 1 cup icing sugar. You blend the fruit with the yogurt, add the whipped cream, freeze for 3 hours, then chop it up and blend it again. I can’t remember if it was supposed to be repeated, but I know that it was always rock hard when it was ready.

First time I made it I used raspberries. I had more than one cup, more like two and a bit, so thinking ‘more is better’ I added them all. Wrong. More is not better when dealing with fruit that has pips… The ice cream was amazing but I was constantly spitting out pips .Lesson learned.

The next few times I made it I experimented with using flavoured yogurts, my favourite being a fig yogurt I could get in Australia. For fruit I’ve tried tinned peaches, banana, figs, strawberries, rockmelon. I even tried coffee but don’t recommend it. Yuck.

By far the best flavour I found is banana and strawberry. Together,

On to the cream… when I first made it, in Australia, the cream was so rich and gorgeous it would coat the inside of your mouth. Okay, sounds gross, but I loved the richness of it. Here in Greece cream leaves a lot to be desired. Its like the thinnest of thin whipping creams in Australia and doesn’t have the substance or flavour. Whatever. The point of my experimentation is that I was trying to find a way to make the ice cream better suited to someone (me) who has no will power and is addicted to the stuff. I’ve tried just not making it, but then I crave ice cream… so better to make my own healthier stuff.

In the process of experimenting the first thing I did was use 1kg of yogurt instead of 750g cause I just buy the large tub. I’ve used 5% fat yogurt and 2%, and actually prefer the 2%. Having said that, let me just say that while cream might suck in Greece, the yogurt is out of this world. Better than the greek style yogurt can get in Australia.

Next thing I did was cut down on the sugar. In fact I’d cut down to 1/2 a cup sugar right from the start. Now I use honey.

So, I used more yogurt to cream… then I began cutting down the cream. To be honest, I’m now using no cream at all and it seems fine, even when using 2% yogurt. I can’t really tell the difference. The ice cream is no softer, I still have to cut it into slices and either wait for it to soften so I can eat it, or suck on it like its a popsicle. It really is hard as a rock.

Right. This is my recipe for frozen yogurt/ice cream.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg natural yogurt (no sugar added)
  • 2-3 ripe bananas
  • 1-2 cups strawberries (I use frozen when I can’t get fresh)
  • 1/2 cup honey (you can add more if you need or if the fruit isnt sweet enough)

Put the fruit in the blender and blend till smooth. Add in yogurt, top with honey. Blend till well mixed. Pour into a cake loaf tin and place in freezer. Remove in 4-5 hours and slice. Put in a freezer proof container and return to freezer. Serve slices as required. Eat without feeling guilty cause, like, yogurt is good for you!

How easy is that? You just use the fruit you have and mix it all up in one go, come back 4-5 hours later to slice up and its done!

z

i used to be a good cook

At least a decent one… I could cook things and feed friends and family without poisoning anyone and with minimal face pulling and stuffing food into handbags.

I used to actually enjoy cooking. But then it became a chore. And I don’t even have kids! How pathetic is that? I blame the fact that the men in my life have always been prehistoric when it comes to food: meat, meat and maybe a vegetable now and then if they’re feeling generous. And I tend to cook very light on the meat. I’m not a vegetarian, though I should be. I just can’t be bothered to work that hard for food. Being on any special diet means you have to think and plan what you put in your mouth…. Too much hard work.

When I’m in the mood I’ll cook. Or (more likely) bake. I love baking but lately, it doesn’t seem to like me as much.

Case in point:

applecrumble

What was meant to be apple crumble… more like charcoal crumble…

I’ve made apple crumble for years. I make a GREAT apple crumble… yet for some reason I burned it. It seems like almost everything I cook/bake lately is burned. In fact, if its not burned its probably not cooked.

I did manage to make a beautiful spanakopita last week – not a bit of charcoal to be found!

spanakopita

Normally I make my own pastry for my spanakopita, but that time I’d bought some medium thickness filo pastry from a greek deli to try. It was good, but I still prefer my rustic country pasty.

Yum.

I think its time to make another spanakopita. I can live on that stuff.

I also made pasta flora last week too. This is what’s left of it:

pastaflora

You can find my mom’s pasta flora recipe here. The spanakopita recipe is here.

z

spanakopita the way mom makes it

I don’t cook much. I used to enjoy cooking, but I got tired of doing it all the time. Now I only cook when the mood takes me. These last couple of weeks that I’ve been off work I’ve been cooking more than usual as I figure I owe it to Wayne. He works hard, long hours, and he deserves to come home to a cooked dinner… Though meat and two veg isn’t my type of dinner.
Whatever.
On Sunday I decided it was time to make a spanakopita again. I hadn’t made one for months! Maybe even a year!
Its really easy, except the rolling out dough bit… I’m useless at that as you can see by the top of it in the pic… 
I’ve had a fear of pastry all my life, since the time I made pizza dough that you could use to panel beat a car with. But this pastry is easy peasy. Even I can do it. And its so tasty!
Anyway, I thought I’d share the love and post the recipe so you can try it yourselves. The pastry recipe I got from a greek lady in Hobart, the filling is what mom taught me years ago.

Pastry
2 cups plain flour
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups boiling hot water (the recipe I got was typically greek – it said 1 glass of water! Glass, what’s a glass? A tall glass? A wine glass? A tumber?)
1/2 cup olive oil (or 3/4, again I had to translate the glass thing… 1/2 a glass of olive oil is roughly 1/2 to 3/4 cups apparently… at least by my numerically challenged calculations)
Place all ingredients in a food processor and turn it on. It’ll knead itself. Let it cool a while before turning out onto a floured surface.
Filling
500g frozen spinach (or the equivalent in fresh spinach which I’m too lazy to use)
1-2 leeks
dill. Plenty of it. I use those small tubes from the supermarket and use the whole thing. 
2-3 eggs
feta cheese cut into cubes. (same applies: plenty of it)
I defrost the spinach, strain and squeeze the excess water out of it and put it in a bowl. Chop up and lightly brown the leek in a frying pan, let it cool a bit and add it to the bowl. Squeeze in the dill (or chop it up and add it if you’re one of those annoying ‘all fresh’ kind of people). Cut up and add the feta. Gently beat the eggs and add them. Mix it all together. 
Line your baking tray with baking paper. If you’re good enough to roll out half the pastry into one big sheet you can then deposit into the baking tray without it breaking, stretching or folding onto itself, then go ahead and do it that way – show-off.
If you’re like me (useless), put half the pastry in the middle of the tray and then use your fingers to spread it out till it covers the entire surface and even up the sides a little bit.
Spread the filling all over it.
Then comes the fun part… roll out the pastry and put it on top. If you can do it in one piece then, wow, you win a cigar. If not, do what I do and just roll out bits and pieces and do a patchwork top. Your stomach won’t care.
Bake it in a moderate oven till its nice golden brown on top.

Enjoy.
Its great hot, warm and cold. I keep mine in the fridge and just grab a bit for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
No wonder I haven’t made it for that long. I made it once a week for a while and OD-ed on it.
z

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russian honey cake

Yes. Its another food post. 
I can’t explain it, but maybe its cause once you cook once, you get the urge to do it again. And unlike most of the time, this time I didn’t sit down and let the feeling pass.
When mom visited early in the year I took her to a cafe in Richmond and we had this russian honey cake. The taste was so familiar, so wonderful… I just had to have it again.
Even if I had to make it myself.
And that’s saying something!
So I looked it up online. Its called medovik apparently, and its a popular russian cake. Contrary to how it looks with all those layers, its not that hard to make. This is pretty much how it looked when I had it:

This is the photo from the page of the recipe I followed:

Now I would never, ever attempt a layer cake normally, but this one is made of large biscuit (or cookie) layers. Not sponge cake. ie, easier. I mean, I can make cookies, right?

This is my cake:

Again, not quite as nice as in the pictures. But it tasted GREAT. 
And that’s not just my opinion. I had guinea pigs taste testers at dinner last night.
So, anyway, I’ll include the recipe I used below, but if you want the proper recipe, click on the images above. I will try the other recipe next time I make it, its similar and looks like it might be easier. 
Russian Honey Cake – Medovik
Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons honey (this time I stuck with the amount stated)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour (we just call it plain flour here)
Cream Filling (see recipe below)
Preparation:
Preheat oven to 190C or 375F depending on where you live. Cut five sheets of baking paper, I did not cut them into circles as the recipe said, I mean, why bother? You cut the dough into circles, the paper can be triangles if you want. 
In a small bowl, combine sugar and eggs.
In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add honey, egg-sugar mixture, and baking powder; stir constantly until well blended and foamy the recipe says. It didn’t get really foamy, but there was a slight foaminess about the edges…
Remove from heat.
Stir in flour until dough is not sticky. I did have to add a bit more flour and I did work it by hand on the bench in order to make it unsticky enough to roll out. I had to cause the dough kept sticking to my rolling pin.
Divide the dough into five more or less equal blobs. Cover the blobs with plastic wrap to keep them warm. No idea why this is important, but it is.
Using a floured rolling pin, roll one blob into a more or less round shape about 1/4-inch thick. I found it was easier to roll the dough out straight onto the baking paper and not try to lift it up. I mean, its really quite thin even when its thicker than it should be… Once it was rolled out I used the base of a springform cake tin to cut it into circles. 
I used the offcuts to patch any edges that didn’t quite reach the edge, and all leftover bits were baked as well for the crumb topping. 
Bake 3 to 5 minutes or until just barely golden but not brown. Remove from oven and cool. 
Repeat for the other four blobs of dough.
I had to keep a close eye on them as they baked cause our oven (despite being fan forced) doesn’t bake evenly. I also baked them one at a time to be safe.
The recipe says you should prepare the filling at this stage. I prepared it before I did the dough/baking. I mean, it said you needed to let it cool so why would you prepare it last? 
But in case you want to make it at this point, here it is now. Otherwise, do it first like I did.
Caramel-Cream Filling
1 and a bit can sweetened condensed milk (the recipe said 14oz, our cans are 12oz so I put in a bit extra. Maybe a little more than a bit extra… of course I had to use a conversion thingy to figure that out cause we work in grams, not ounces
3 eggs, beaten 
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup butter
In a saucepan big enough for the job, over medium heat, combine sweetened condensed milk, eggs, honey, and butter. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil; boil until the mixture thickens. Or that’s what you’d want ideally. My mixture seemed pretty thick to begin with and at some stage I decided it was thick enough stopped. 
Remove from heat and let cool.
I used the springform tin to put my cake together cause I thought it would be easier. I cut a bit of baking paper for the bottom so it wouldn’t stick. Alternate the layers of biscuit circles and filling. I used the crushed offcuts sprinkled on top to finish it off.
Put it in the fridge and leave it for at least 8 hours. I left it for 24 since it was dessert for the next night.

We had it with a bit of cream and my opinion is that its better with coffee or tea during the day than after a full meal at dinner time. It was too rich for after dinner.

It worked great for breakfast though!

The delicate flavour of the honey and the caramel flavour of the filling is just yummy.

z

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