Concentrating on the new blog

Hi,

Been a very long time between posts. Concentrating on a new project. Will leave this blog in place for people to access the recipes. Happy eating!

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Life’s about to get rather busy …

We’ve by-passed spring and moved straight into summer in the desert down under. Heading for 36 degrees celsius today and it sure is warm outside!

Life’s about to get rather busy for me. Starting a 5 week full-time contract working 8-5 Monday – Friday. The pay is good and that’s the ONLY reason I’ve accepted the full-time hours for I’d much prefer to be working part-time as befits my “semi-retired” status. Semi-retired because that sounds so much better than unemployed or sick and unemployed. The work looks interesting enough and it’s in an office that seems quite friendly with the bonus of having a good friend also working there. Just hope the hospital doesn’t decide to get its act together and call me up for my endoscopy before the end of October.

With the sudden hot weather AND not always feeling good, my time in the kitchen is challenging. I ended up making leek and potato soup last night. Soothing and soft and doesn’t do anything nasty to my insides. Crunching on some salad leaves the day before gave me an upsent gut so need to remember to go easy on the raw foods.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is merely to let people know that I won’t be blogging for the next month unless I’m super inspired.

Cheers and stay cool,

Gnocchi, because it’s nice

The shepherd’s pie went down a treat. For me anyway. 🙂 Tonight I have a large amount of that pasta sauce I made a couple of days ago (scroll down for previous post). I can’t be bothered cooking up more mashed potato to make yet another shepherd’s pie. Strolling the supermarket this morning I saw gnocchi and I thought perfect! Gnocchi is fresh pasta made from mashed potato. Another soothing to the stomach comfort food. So tonight it’s fresh gnocchi with the lentil/tomato/pretend mince and mushroom pasta sauce. A healthy sprinkle of freshly shredded parmesan melted on top. Yum!

Lunches the past few days have consisted of dipping into the left over mashed potato for a couple of spoonfuls, a handful of grated low-fat tasty cheese, and a beaten egg with a spoon full of water. Mix ingredients in small dish and microwave until egg is cooked. Today, just because I had some, I added a large hand of chopped fresh parsley. So the messy, eggy mush is sort of like scrambled egg with potato. Tastes good though and is soothing to the GERD afflicted stomach.

This afternoon’s snack was 3 slices of tinned peaches, a teaspoon of muesli for the crunch and nut factor, topped with yogurt that I’d mixed with a teaspoon of blood orange juice. Very tasty and quite filling. Normally I’d avoid citrus but I have found that a teaspoon of the juice of the sweeter varieties doesn’t upset me. And blood oranges smell divine!

Cheers,

A Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

I’m after comfort food today. Comfort food for GERD sufferers that is. Something that will not irritate, not cause an excess of stomach acid, something that will be soothing to my oesophagus and stomach and other digestive organs. This means cooking something with potatoes, you can’t go wrong with potatoes as long as they’re microwaved, steamed, baked or even boiled, just don’t add fat. Shepherd’s Pie. Lots of potatoes. But wait, I’m a vegetarian! How do I accomplish this?
Let’s start with the potatoes. I’ve chosen the casserole dish I’m going to use and worked out how many potatoes, once mashed, it will take to cover the dish. For me it’s 3 large potatoes (Lady Christl potatoes as it happens, nice yellow flesh that mashes nicely). I don’t bother peeling, just chop and microwave till tender. I mash them adding only 1 teaspoon of butter. Now here’s where I do something a bit different. My mash is quite lumpy and textured, nice but not smooth. I make up a small serve of Deb instant mash and add it to my own potatoes. Makes for a very yummy tasting potato mash! And it spreads nicely. Okay, potatoes done.
For the “savoury mince” I basically make up a very thick pasta sauce, vegetarian of course. For those GERD sufferers who are saying “but I can’t eat tomatoes” please remember the 10 minute/2 hour rule – either cook the tomatoes for less than 10 mins (i.e. leave them raw) or simmer them for 2 hours. This will eliminate or neutralize any acid in the tomatoes. Tinned tomatoes have usually been cooked so won’t need the full 2 hours, experiment and see.
My “savoury mince”/pasta sauce consists of sauteed onion (small) and mushrooms (lots), add a 425g tin tomatoes (no added salt), 425g tin tomato puree (no salt), 425g tin of lentils (Sanitarium’s Savoury Lentils), a squirt of worcestershire sauce (small squirt) (and I could have used red wine or other flavouring), diced carrots and chopped zucchini. A bit of water, some salt (1 tsp) and herbs and spices (remember to use “warm” spices only or if you’re having a bad day just go with the green or dried herbs). Allow to simmer on the stove top for an hour. Should thicken up nicely and smell delicious.
For extra protein I added a can of Sanitarium’s Casserole Mince. This looks like dog food which is why I only use it in thick, rich tomato based dishes. Once it’s covered it doesn’t look so bad. It is made from gluten, so for those of you who are allergic or wish to avoid gluten, try a soy based “mince”.
Casserole Mince

Casserole Mince

Place some of the “savoury mince” into your casserole dish. Top with the mashed potato. Sprinkle with your preferred cheese (I used grated parmesan) and perhaps some dried parsley and/or sweet paprika (just for colour). Bake in a 180C oven for about half an hour until the potato is crisp and golden or the cheese has melted.

Mine is cooling on the bench and smells just divine! (Sorry, no photo for now). Looking forward to dinner!

Cheers,

Left Overs & Macadamias

There’s still plenty of that pumpkin cannelloni left, so guess what we’re eating tonight? 🙂

My stomach and abdomen are still very sore and I’m having lots of reflux and regurgitation these past few days. Not pleasant. Powerade helps ease the nausea, I sip about 200mls over the course of the day. After many months of not eating them I have placed macadamia nuts back into my diet. For the calories and low volume. They also taste nice! My stomach seems to be enjoying them as it’s settled down a lot this afternoon. I used to mix macadamias with some diced dried fruit, but of late in Australia our dried fruit is often imported and tastes odd (I think so anyway). So I’m skipping the fruit and just eating the nuts. One has to be very disciplined not to eat too many nuts. I limit myself to 6 macadamias per day, I forget the number of calories or kilojoules that equates to, but it’s enough to top me up.

Cheers,

Pumpkin & Ricotta Cannelloni

Nice and simple.

Peel and chop into small chunks half a butternut pumpkin (squash). Spray with olive oil. Season with your favourite herbs and spices, I used fresh marjoram, salt and a pinch of fresh ground black pepper. I also drizzled 1 teaspoon of honey over the pumpkin pieces. Roast/bake in the oven at 180C for roughly 40 minutes until tender but not overcooked.

When the pumpkin is cooled slightly, mash with a fork or masher. Add some chopped fresh or dried herbs (I used fresh continental parsley, thyme and marjoram with a sprinkle of cinnamon). Add 250g tub of ricotta cheese (I use the low fat version) and mix together. Throw in a beaten egg and stir. This is the mixture that will be the filling for the cannelloni.

Whilst the pumpkin is roasting in the oven, sautee a finely chopped onion. Add 1 or 2 cans of chopped or crushed tomatoes (as usual I use the no salt tomatoes), a small jar of either pasta sauce OR a can of tomato puree. Add water to thin it out just a little and allow the lot to simmer for half an hour (it should evaporate down and thicken slightly). Note: You can make/buy your own favourite pasta sauce here, this was what I had in my pantry.

Take some fresh lasagna sheets. Cut in half. Place some of the tomato sauce in the bottom of your cannelloni dish so the pasta won’t stick and burn. Put a large spoonful of pumpkin ricotta mix onto the lasagna sheet and roll up to make your cannelloni. Place in dish. I had to use 4 different sized casserole type dishes to take all of the pumpkin/cannelloni. Spoon over the tomato sauce, ensuring all the pasta is covered. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan or romano cheese, even grated cheddar or tasty will do if that’s all there is in the fridge. I then, because there was some on the spice shelf, sprinkled pinchfuls of dukkah on top, to give it an earthy and crunchy topping. Bake in oven for 30-40 mins at 180C.

Divine.

And there’s enough left over to feed my partner and I for another two nights. Excellent!

Okay, so it’s been a while

Hello, I’m back. 2008 has been an interesting and challenging year thus far. And it doesn’t look like it’ll ease up anytime soon. C’est la vie.

I spent February, March and much of April back in Brisbane helping nurse my younger sister. She went down with kidney stones. Painful. To say the least. After the morphine kicked in you had to see the funny side. So many good looking, charming paramedics and we got to meet most of them during our multiple ambulance rides to the Royal Brisbane Hospital.

I came home in late April with the intention of finding myself a job. Instead I went down with a virus or three, which set off the gastritis again. Nasty. Still recovering. Then winter hit and along came the colds and flu season. Now I’m counting down the days to my specialist appointment. I am just so over this GERD, the pain, the nausea, the severe throat/voice pain not to mention the reflux and regurgitation, the upper abdominal bloating and that slight pain in the middle of my back which comes and goes. Have I missed anything? I’m reconsidering the surgical option. That’s what the appointment with the gastro doc is for. Two weeks. And counting. My throat/voice is killing me, thank goodness for apple juice mixed with slippery elm bark powder (sounds like a tree, smells like tree bark, and tastes … thankfully it’s not too unpleasant).

I try to keep focus on the positives. Like enjoying my cooking. Have started a very small herb and vegetable garden. We’re now eating our own lettuce, baby spinach and assorted herbs. And don’t they all taste so much better than the “fresh” produce from the supermarket!

I find I’m cooking big batches so I don’t have to cook each night. It doesn’t take too much extra effort to ensure there will be plenty of left overs. Recipe from yesterday’s cooking in the next post.

Cheers,

A short break in proceedings …

I’m due to take off for a couple of weeks. I will not be posting during this time. When I go on holiday I don’t do anything online apart from check emails. (Time is too valuable to spend writing posts, I’d rather be relaxing outdoors or doing something exciting.)

I’ve been unwell this week. Still. Hence no postings of cookery. I did manage to bake another batch of those breakfast bars to take with me on holiday, and I’ve managed to prepare a healthy tea each evening. Nothing exciting. Tonight’s likely to be pumpkin soup from a carton with some sour dough bread, toasted. Simple, filling, comforting. I’ll deal with tomorrow when it’s here.

Have resorted to homeopathy for my ails. Nux vomica. Lovely name isn’t it? Well, two little pilules under the tongue seem to have eased the ache and pain dramatically and I feel I have more energy. I do feel very, very washed out. Perhaps I’ve been fighting an infection? Or maybe it’s just the heat? Who knows? Have been doing loads of internet research, seeking out support groups and forums to do with GERD. So many people with this disease complain of “taking their medications but still in pain”. (If I stop my meds, the pain is far, far, far worse.) Frustrating.

Hoping the cooler, albeit far more humid weather of Queensland will settle things down. Looking forward to flying over the recently/still flooded areas and seeing greenery for the first time in some years.

Back sometime in February.

Muffins!

Still feeling a bit off colour, although I like to think I am on the improve. We had a simple salad for tea last night, the day had been so very hot and a nice, cold, crunchy salad was just the thing.

This morning I roasted some pumpkin (butternut squash) and potatoes. I’ve made another salad with the mignonette lettuce, baby spinach leaves, lots of fresh chopped basil and parsley, diced and de-seeded cucumber, diced tomato (I used Roma tomatoes because of their low acid content, but I still de-seeded them). And some fetta and olives. Tonight I’ll serve the salad with the chilled, roast vegetables. This will really bulk out the salad into a hefty meal. And cold roast potatoes and pumpkin taste wonderful!

But my main foray into the kitchen today was to whip a batch of Rosemary Stanton’s Zucchini & Apple Muffins. I’ve taken the recipe from Rosemary’s book Healthy eating for Australian families, published by Murdoch Books.  First up, here’s a photo of the muffins. They turned out very well and taste scrumptious!

Muffins

According to Dr Stanton’s nutritional information, these muffins only contain 9g fat (1.5g saturated fat), 4g protein, 25g carbohydrate, 1.5g dietary fibre, 165mg sodium and 825kJ (that’s 197 calories) – per muffin! Excellent!

  • 250g (2 cups) self-raising flour
  • 95g (1/2 cup) soft brown sugar
  • 135g  (1 cup) grated zucchini (courgette)
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tbspn macadamia oil or light olive oil (I used grape seed oil)
  • 185ml (3/4 cup) reduced-fat milk

I added a sprinkle of cinnamon to the mix. I like cinnamon. And it was a good choice, adding to both flavour and taste.
Pre-heat oven to 190C (375F or Gas Mark 5). Grease a 12-bun standard muffin tin (I use 2x 6-bun muffin tins).

Sift flour. Stir in sugar, grated zucchini & grated apple.

Beat eggs with vanilla, oil and milk. Add to flour mixture. Mix, but take care not to over mix. Gently fold it all through until it’s nicely mixed. Use a metal spoon.

Spoon mixture evenly into the muffin tin. Bake for 20mins. Cool in the tin for 5 mins then turn them out onto a rack.

The zucchini helps keep the muffin nice and moist, as does the apple. I can taste the apple, but not the zucchini. The green of the zucchini is very pretty.

And best of all, think of all those healthy vitamins in the muffins!

Still recovering & it’s still summer

I’m still recovering from the gastritis associated with my GERD. Eating healthy, very low-fat, and in small, regular portions rather than a set 3 meals per day. It just takes time to get back to feeling “normal” and pain free.

We’re still eating the dhal and rice I cooked a few nights ago. Who would have thought that 3 small potatoes, 2 small carrots and 1 cup of lentils would have made so much food!! This will be our 4th night. Just as well it’s yummy. And it’s very soothing comfort food for an inflamed stomach (as long as you leave out any hot spices like chilli or curry powder).

Lunches have been delightful affairs. Take a small pita bread, warm or toast lightly. Spread with light Philly (cream cheese, 80% reduced fat version). Cover with a small handful of assorted lettuce & salad leaves (I use mignonette, baby spinach & cos). Throw some fresh, chopped basil and lots of parsley on top (I use continental or flat-leaf parsley for its stronger taste). Finally, a few halved kalamata olives. Eat. Enjoy! This tastes so fresh and green!

In spite of the heat (we’re back to days of 39 and higher temperatures again) I opted to do some baking yesterday. I followed the recipe in Nigella Lawson’s book Nigella Express, for Breakfast Bars.  It was incredibly easy to throw together and only made a few, slight alterations to the recipe.

Pre-heat the oven to 130C (a very slow oven). Mix together in a very large bowl:

  • 250g rolled oats (not the instant oats)
  • 75g shredded coconut (I used moist coconut flakes)
  • 50g dried cranberries (craisins – available in the dried fruit/baking aisle of Australian supermarkets)
  • 50g mixed dried fruit (I use Angas Park’s Dried Fruit Medley)
  • 125g mixed seeds (I used pumpkin seeds, sunflower kernels and pine nuts, conveniently packaged together by the “Lucky” brand in Australia.)
  • 100g chopped, unsalted macadamia nuts (Nigella’s recipe calls for 125g peanuts but I prefer macadamias and I only had 100g.)

Open a 395g can of condensed milk and pour into saucepan. Warm gently. (I used the “skinny” or reduced fat version of condensed milk. If you read the nutrition label on the cans you’ll see there’s an incredible difference in fat content!)

When the milk is warm, pour over the mixture and stir thoroughly. You want everything coated. Spread the mixture into an oiled rectangular baking tin or use a throw away foil one, 23 x 33 x 4 cm. Bake in slow oven for 1 hour.

I found the top was beginning to crisp a little too much after 45 minutes so covered the top with some foil. Next time I’ll bake covered for the first 20 mins, then uncovered to ensure it turns golden and slightly crisp.

Let the tray cool for 15 minutes, then cut into 16 chunky squares. Let cool completely. Store in airtight container.

I have to say, this recipe is definitely a winner. I have tried a number of differing recipes for muesli and breakfast bars, but this has been the best. And it’s healthy. Although do remember that because of the condensed milk and the dried fruit, the sugar content is high.

Rather than eating these for breakfast, I eat them as a hefty snack. Preferably in two sittings. Each of those 16 bars was a fair size.

I think you could also make “biscuits” (cookies) out of this recipe too if you didn’t want the bother of cutting up slices. I’ll experiment next time I make this. I think it would work out well if I rolled out small balls for biscuits and they’d make a lot more than 16. Cooking times would need to be adjusted.

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