Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Inspiration

**Warning** - This is very photo heavy, also I talk through my hat quite a bit and well it's all about Christmas, curmudgeons look away now! I have a box, a box of Christmassy goodness. Something I can delve into for ideas, it's all in there gifts, decorations and food. 

I've tried to include years where possible, so you can get some context of when these became popular.

The Tree!
Yes, this is an actual Christmas tree! More impressive than the twig tree or the length of paper stuck on your wall with a tree shape drawn on it, believe me. (2004)
Love purple! My sister describes these matching trees as "soulless", I don't know I quite like a matching tree myself.

Blue, my other colour choice.
More blue...

And yet more blue....can't just be me who likes it?

You might have noticed the God's Eyes decorations on the tree above, the one on the left in this picture is one I made well over 20 years ago, actually longer I think. So they can't be hard to make can they?

Other Decorations...
As a knitter, this instantly appealed to me, I do have a wreath shape floating about and no shortage of yarn.

I fell in love with this at first sight, a little bit naff perhaps. (2001)
When planning this Christmas (2012) we debated about simply making foods we really, really like or going with a theme, the themes mooted were Indian or Asian. It's been officially decided that 2013 will be Asian or more precisely a Very Westernised Asian theme.

I knew before Asian Studies that fortune cookies were a Western idea. Having done a unit in Asian Studies and History unit looking at some of early European forays and communication around the world I came away feeling prior to all this I had been very ignorant and also a tiny bit racist.

Also I am beginning to suspect that Asian look or style I have coveted and admired my whole life is perhaps more of a Western construct than something truly Asian.
I can think of two things that were probably the points of ignition for this and they both happened about the same time. One was Monkey Magic, the second was one of the girl's in my class, her family were hosting a Japanese girl.
The Japanese girl was coming into class a couple of times, she wore the kimono and the sash (an obi?), we made paper cherry blossoms and learned a cherry blossom dance which we performed at school assembly. I'm sure there may have been more, but that was Grade 2, some of the other information has been lost in the mists of time or in the alcohol I've drunk in the intervening years.

Red and white candy canes = Christmas for me.

Nativity set with Vietnamese hats - As an nonreligious woman I feel a bit of a charlatan even contemplating religious decorations, but I just love this! (Oxfam 2012)
Maybe next year If I'm feeling uber crafty I'll sew some of these up. I love the high heeled boots they have a very Victorian/Goth/Steam punk vibe to them. (2003)
The Table...

Did I mention how much I like candy canes? And peppermint candy in general?

It's not that I'm obsessed with red and white candy you understand.

Alright you got me. I am.
I love this, I suspect the cat would as well. (2002)

Love at first sight when I saw this table setting. (2001)
Now the article refers to this setting as Contemporary Christmas and it's blurb reads "The Christmas table can be sleek and modern, with a Zen-like elegance, and still be festive."
And get this, the Style Idea - Collect flowers and team with dried pods, twigs painted silver, unusual pieces of bark and d

Um, I'm down with the flowers, they actually look like something my parents have in their garden. Twigs painted silver? Maybe not. Dried pods and unusual pieces of bark? Bit too arty for my tastes. Driftwood? Don't live near a beach and if I'm honest I am not touching anything that's been drifting in the local river.

I think what I loved about this setting is it leapt out at me as being Asian.
The dishes are square and "jade" green, the reedy woven looking place mates. You see? Kind of what I was talking about with the fortune cookies wreath.

Edible Centerpieces
I know what your all thinking, more edible decorations? Really more? How many do you need woman?

Caramel Popcorn Tree - I adore caramel popcorn!

Sushi! I love veg sushi, so I was excited by this. And probably also the healthiest edible decoration of the bunch.

Chocolate Gingerbread House, every year I tell myself I'll make a Gingerbread House. Now there's a chocolate one.

How's this for a very Aussie Gingerbread House? Very cool.

Chocolate Crackle Tree - My sister's idea of heaven.

Chocolate Noodle Christmas Tree - You know like the "Spiders" mixture??? I love those things.

What have we established? I love blue and purple, Westernised Asia, edible decorations and yes sugar is my crack.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


So in preparation for what my sister and I are dubbing "Grown-Up Christmas", I had a test run of a few things.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes from Quick & Easy Vegan Celebrations 

Green Bean Casserole from Quick & Easy Vegan Celebrations
These both came out a success, although I did make a double batch of sauce for the beans as one lot didn't seem to be enough and that was using only half the quantity of beans.

Still a few more things on the to try list, which is very exciting. And of course on the day I'll be serving up on the "good" china, even break out the special cutlery, neither of these have seen the light of day since ?????? A really loooooong time.

A certain extended family member has started putting in requests for what they want for Christmas, most notably home-made shortbread and Xmas pudding. Which reminds me I must investigate vegan Xmas puddings, no way am I attempting to veganise great-great-grandma's with it's 9 eggs.
Then my sister doesn't eat Xmas pudding so I could probably make something else for dessert that day, there was a chocolate raspberry tart in Vegan Pie in the Sky that looks promising. Choc-raspberry is a win-win combination.

Friday, October 26, 2012

It's not November but...

It may actually still have been the end of August and not even officially ticked over into September when I first saw the Christmas stock appearing in stores. Too early!

Here we are not quite the end of October so no where near the beginning of November and my Christmas plans are formulating. Initially I thought it was just going to be the Daft White Cat and I, cue visions of sugar plums, bad Christmas movies and eating popcorn, naked.
Turns out I'm spending it with my sister, alright re-make plans, perhaps all of the above but without the nudity. Possibly in pajamas instead.

My sister the carnivore is fine with vegan sides and vegan desserts/baking, but she sneers at the possibility of tofu or "something made with wheat gluten" for a main dish. TVP was disdained as well, I didn't mention tempeh. We've established I can cook whatever I like out of whatever I want, since she won't be eating it so she dosen't need to like it.
Currently I believe my sister will actually be eating a steak as big as her own head (or maybe bigger?) accompanied by the various veg side dishes.

I'm going to try some stuff out over the next month and see how it turns out, this is the initial hit list of new things I want to do.

Christmas menu from Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations by Alicia C. Simpson
Christmas Tamales
Hazelnut-Crusted Seitan
Agave-Glazed Acorn Squash - Finding acorn squash or it's Aussie equivalent, not a high priority.
Jamaican Curried Pumpkin Soup - Jamaican curry powder in the hard to find basket, also soup in summer? I'm down with a cooked dinner for Christmas. Might save this for winter.
Green Bean Casserole - I read on an American expat forum, that some of them have had success with those fried shallots you buy in the Asian section of the supermarket when unable to buy the Fry's fried onions. Duly noted.
Dill New Potatoes - Scratched as I have my heart set on a layered potato casserole.
Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
Mulled Pomegranate Cider - My sister expressed a desire to try mulled wine despite our summery weather, mulled cider popped into my head as I was sure Nigella had a recipe for both. Then there this one was, it's got a stamp of approval.

Some stuff I've made successfully in the past from off the Interwebs (actually this list appears to be all PPK at the moment) and will make an appearance:-
Seitan Roast Stuffed with Shiitakes and Leeks - So this might only get an outing if the other mains flop.
Scalloped Potatoes and Eggplant Bacon
Roasted Broccoli

Of course I'm still desperatly trying to adopt Delia's tradition of sausage rolls on Christmas Eve, albeit veg ones now, so some trials there to do as well. And of course I really want to adopt that all American movie tradition of Holiday Cookies!
Only because this is the Darkside, I suspect I'll end up with Ninjabread Men or Ghosts or something equally nontraditional Christmas. Well nontraditional for other people maybe. :)

Sunday, September 02, 2012

What I did on my weekend part two

Straw and Hay Pasta from Chloe's Kitchen

 The pasta was not a success, it basically just tasted of tahini, which is not a bad thing entirely but it wasn't quite what I was hoping for.

Sweet and Sour Party Meatballs from Chloe's Kitchen (These were very good!)

Home Brewed Ginger Ale from Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food by Alicia C. Simpson (Delicious! A must come the really hot weather I think).

What I did on my weekend part one

From the other day...
Crispy Banana-Cinnamon Waffles from Vegan Diner by Julie Hasson
(Waffle maker got it's first use in about 10 years, needs a little more experimenting to get it spot on.)

Diner Granola from Vegan Diner by Julie Hasson
(I'm making this and giving it to people come Christmas time, it was absolutely delicious!)

And today's round included the following...
Handy Hummus from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson
On the fly shot of Yoga Cookies from Chloe's Kitchen
I'm uncertain about the yoga cookies, I had to leave my mum to roll them into balls and put them on the trays and bake them. According to my mum, the mix was very wet, but now that they've baked and cooled they seem to be holding together alright. Not at all sweet to eat, but loaded with yummy goodies - coconut, choc chips, raisins and pecans instead of walnuts (not a walnut fan at all).
Verdict do far? My dad thinks the "rock cakes" are really nice.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Forget the cheerleader, save the sandwich

New addition to the Darkside library!

Peanut Butter Banana Bacon Sandwich
Not the most amazing looking sandwich, but it was one which required minimal effort and all pantry staples, at least in my house.

There are quite a few more sandwiches on the must make soon list, but I am also keen to have a crack at the Green Monster Bread, Brioche and some vegan cold cuts. Very useful components in making a plethora of other sandwiches.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Meanwhile at the food pyramid of doom....

I'm having a bit of a freezer purge at the moment, trying to eat up all the good food I had squirreled away to make room for more "new" good food to be squirreled away. My capacity to eat the same happily ever day is well documented, but there comes a time when even I need a change. Also this....

I think the books are breeding when I'm not looking, those are just the vegan books. Some of them I have never cooked from yet, some I have cooked one thing from and Appetite for Reduction has got a phenomenal workout. My most used cookbook ever I think. And as you can see round the edges there are even more cook books, the non-vegan collection. I think I might need to have a bit of a purge of those, if for no other reason than to make more room for the vegan ones. Probably if I have never cooked out of the non-veg ones by now, I never will and they might be the first candidates to be rehomed. Although I'm tempted to just rehouse them in another book case, some fond memories and a lot of passion is tied to those books. Not to mention the food magazines...yeah I'm a food ho! I am slave to food porn, celebrity chefs and worship at the specialist kitchen stores. Truly I am beyond help, there is nothing left but to save yourselves! :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A little bit of lots of things

On Gaining Health: I had a visit to the Doctor's and we assessed all the numbers, looked at the blood test results and you know what? We have good numbers all around plus the numbers have also come down since we last checked all the numbers. [Numfar does the dance of joy]

[Doctor dosen't do the dance of joy] We had a brief discussion about lapband surgery, again. It's less do or die now, it's more like it'd be the quickest way of losing the last of the weight now. I still don't think it's the option for me, changing my lifestyle has been a slow process but I've come along way from how things were. I think I can finish this, keeping a positive mind set.

Gaining Health Props I Love:
My much used copy (the post-it markers show when on the shelf among my other books this is also my most used vegan cook book) of Appetite For Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, to borrow a qoute from the back cover "Only 200 to 400 calories per serving".

While the book has no breakfasts or sweet stuff, it's all soups, salads and other mains & sides. The food is delicious that I have made so far and it's also very filling, I find myself not riffling the kitchen in search of snacks after I've eaten. A very good thing in my case as this was really my downfall in the past, not eating enough at meals and then madly scrambling through out the day for unhealthy snacks - overly processed, high fat, loaded with refined sugars and while calorie dense not really all that nutrient dense.

I think the Low Fat recipe selection on Isa's website the PPK can give you some idea of the kind of recipes in this book, a few of them are actually in the book but the majority aren't. My top reccomendations Hottie Black Eyed Peas with Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Apples, Marbled Banana Bread and Eggplant Bacon.

My Food Diary! It's been abandoned, I got really slack about taking photos and posting them, might have been a bit less slack about some of the stuff I'd eaten recently if I had been doing this. Oh well. We can but start over!

And a little app I love Zombies, Run! It's kind of quirky, very fun and really the only kind of fitness app I ever want to own. Basically it plays a little story out, "missions" are unlocked as you complete the stories so as your walking, jogging or running imbetween your music you get little bits of story, post apcolyptic world with zombies so you get updates from the people back at base camp. As your moving you gather supplies which after you run you can distribute in your camp to help it grow so kind of also a game as well. Growing your base also unlocks more "missions".
The best bit? It has optional zombie chases, giving you the option of turning it into interval training. This alone sold me on this app. :)

And the newest addition, just arrived so I haven't had time to try anything out of it yet, Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food by Alicia C. Simpson. As the cover says "Every Recipe Has Fewer Than 350 Calories Per Serving!".

This has everything breakfast, soup, salad, mains and sides, dessert and drinks. All of it looks delicious, I think I'm going to have to start with the Cheese Steak on the cover, I have been coveting it ever since the cover was unveiled.
Although running a close second is Chilli Cheese Fries, I haven't eaten them since, I can't remember when. The only time I had them in the past was when I frequented the local Creole restaurant. A little haven of Americana food adventures. Miss it. :(

If I have to make a short list of must try's Seitan Cheesesteak, Chili Cheese Fries, Butter Pecan Ice Cream, Home-Brewed Ginger Ale, Crispy Risotto Cakes and Sticky Bun Popcorn.

Gaining Health ideas that baffle me:
Paleo diet, I don't quite get the excitement.
Running, everyone's all into running now, running is the it sport at the moment and everyone is either running their way to health or running their way to run a marathon.
Fat/Oil-free, I'm always perplexed by fat free. What are you eliminating exactly? All fat both good and bad? Or just bad fat? Are you still eating avocados and nuts? Oil free is a bit more specific, but having been down that road myself in the past, just no.

Final answer? It's back to 1200 calories and daily exercise, it's winter rolling around so maybe I should join the gym. Decisions decisions!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My food pleasures.

My first ever attempt at a Chinese Pancake, could have been rounder. (From Chloe's Kitchen)

Moo Shu Vegetables with Homemade Chinese Pancakes (from Chloe's Kitchen), they mighn't look like much but they were delicious.

I've had the Vetta Teddy Bear shaped pasta in the past which has been fun, so I was super excited to discover Dinosaur shaped pasta today while out shopping. I believe Orgran brand do an Outback Animals shaped one but I've not seen it yet.
Also I thought I had a picture of the Vetta pasta, which I was going to include here, apparently I don't. Next time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

We've only got 20 minutes

Not quite as catchy as the Justin Timberlake and Madonna song is it? No sadly not. :(

What we have is 20 mins while the tofu gets pressed Darkside style...
I've heard epic tales of a thing called a Tofu Xpress but I've yet to see one, I suspect one of the local health food stores might hold such a treasure but were making do.

Tonight I'm mkaing Moo Shu Vegetables and (with my skills allowing) Homemade Chinese Pancakes from Chloe's Kitchen.

Some of the things I've made from the book so far are...

Cinnamon-Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies

(A horrible photo of) Penne alla Vodka - I've been meaning to make a version of this for years, so good!
Some things I've made from Chloe's blog that have made it into her book (I'll have to search for the photos).
- Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts
- Vegan Mac 'N' Cheese (In the book the recipe is baked but otherwise it's the same)

Other things I've made from Chloe's website (for which I will also have to search for photos) which so far have all been good!
- Garlic Sesame Soba Noodles
- Chocolate Chip Banana Cake
- Harvest Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
- Witches Fingers Cookies

I borrowed Knits for Nerds from a knitting friend, I love this book! Eventually I'll have to have a copy of my very own for my collection but for now I have a lend.
My two top picks for thing I must make first go to Aim To Misbehave Jacket (a femine take on the "Browncoats" from Firefly) and Big Bang Girl's Sweater Vest. The vest might be the lower effort and therefore quicker to make but that jaccket is beautiful. And I'm really excited as they both go up to Large and a Large that will actually fit me. Squee!

Speaking of things fitting me, moving into the Gaining Health, I still have underware that's 3 sizes too big. I've bought smaller underware as I've shrank but not completly replaced what I have so I've been making do. One of the 3 sizes too big pairs, I put them on yesterday and the crotch was down around my knees. I figured I'd just pull them up higher, didn't work they migrated down and I had knicker crotch around my knees again.
In the end I took them off and threw them away, it was ridiculous! I need new jeans/trackpants/skirts as there all gettting a fraction too big. Which is easily fixed with the skirts because I can just roll the waistband and make them shorter. This does not work with pants. :(

On a happier note this can mean only one thing, new clothes! :) This has to be a happy thing, might have to do the op shops over and which on the upside should strech the clothing budget quite far provided I can find anything suitable. It really is lucky dip.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mastering Menu Planning

It's been awhile since I menu planned and I have been sort of cooking on a whim and eating a lot of peanut butter sandwichs.

My family have this notion that I eat complicated food, I cook in my parents kitchen. They have an actual kitchen as opposed to a kitchenette, plus their actual kitchen has a dishwasher. Downside to this is their in my way while I'm trying to cook, asking questions, making faces (alright this is limited to my Dad) and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Really how many times do you need to come into the kitchen and make a cup of coffee? Apparently 10 times more when I'm trying to cook.

And I think they percieve my cooking to be time consuming and complicated based on the fact that I'm always chopping up a bunch of fresh vegetable. Since what I eat is nearly all vegetable, that's a fair bit of veg for each meal.

Task #1 - Make my food look less complicated.

Then there's my own little goal. Alright so this is more a ginormous goal.

Task #2 - Cook from the umpteen dozen cookzines I have, plus the cookbooks I've never used.

Then comes the big one, since I've started photographing all my food I'm eating, this is only day three. It's been kind of shaming all ready. Definite room for improvement.

Task #3 - Cook and eat more healthy food!

#3 is a big one, as I'm still very much on the road to "gaining health". The Roller Derby Workout has had an annual challenge for the last 2 years now? This will be year 3 if I'm couting right and I belive there is talk of a vegan meal plan this year. I'll be interested to see what they come up with.
Sadly my library dosen't have any of Brendan Brazier's books which I have seen reccomended. I will admit I am a little uncertain about how they would fit with where I am, my primary focus is to strip away the fat, from a vanity point of view I'll worry about shaping what's underneath later. Maybe it would be more time wise to think about shaping what's underneath the fat now as well as stripping the fat?
Does a book on fitness really fit what I'm trying to do? I'm unsure if there is a definate link between me now and how I see me later.

Fitness is the key overall issue here, whatever derby once was, it has very much evolved into a very competitve sport. Derby girls are now athletes, I want to be a derby girl, so I have to be an athlete? Maybe there is more of a connection to this "fitness". 
Trial and error I suppose, I'll get there eventually. I hope?

Onwards to the menu planning!

From Sunny Days in Texas cookzine
Jackfruit Brisket - A quick one pot dish, that I'll only need to chop an onion for. Low effort!
ETA photo!

From Appetite For Reduction (Low-fat cooking, hopefully clean up my eating a bit more.) -
Broiled Blackened Tofu, Butternut Coconut Rice & Jerk Asparagus
Chilli-Lime Rubbed Tofu with Pasta de los Angeles
Tamarind BBQ Tempeh & Sweet Potatoes
Masala Baked Tofu with ??????? (Possibly cauliflower dish of some description.)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

New Year, New Look

I've done a little tweaking of my blog, revamp it for the new year. And also new for the new year, I have started an additional blog - Darkside Knitter's Food Diary (in Colour!).

Basically this new blog is an experiment, I was reading about how people trying to lose weight in some study, lost more weight when they photographed everything they ate as opposed to people who didn't.

Based on that I've decided to dedicate a blog to being a photographic food diary, I'm sure it will be incredibly dull for other people. We'll see how it works out.

But from this morning, this was my breakfast...even the cat enjoyed a shred of pancake.
Banana Pancakes with strawberries

This was from one of my new cook books I got for Christmas.
Alicia who wrote this one, has a soon to be released Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food , might be more appropiate with the current years goals.