The things we humans obsess over (Part 3)

I’ve had several conversations about this of late, both face to face as well as online… and if I were to define this aspect of contemporary human obsession it would be “online persona“… let me dig a little deeper here and explain what I mean:

You’re in a room gathered together with a bunch of friends, on the pretence of ‘catching up’ – at any one time you will have:
One person texting, pxting or checking their emails
One person wanting to take pics of you all together to post later (once they’ve edited our their dark circles, wrinkles or spots)
One person checking and/ or sending a snapchat, checking into foursquare (for some reason people still use this?)
Three people posting pics of their food to instagram/ twitter / facebook
One person updating Facebook to tell the world that you’re all there in this location, having SO MUCH FUN, tagging you all to articulate that fact..

You’re all there, together, but you’re not.

Since when did posting about what you are doing, rather than being in the moment and experiencing it become more important?!

We are so obsessed with trying to reassure the world that we lead these awesome, exciting, glamorous lives, that we’re not even living them. 

How do I know this? I’m part of it. I blog, tweet, update, instagram, snapchat along with everyone.. but it bugs me that in a room full of people, I can be the only person who leaves their phone in their bag. It’s a sign of respect, of wanting to actually listen and engage with the people you are physically with. And its amazing what it can do for the quality of conversation.

Why are we so obsessed with creating this online persona? This BEST person that we could possibly be? The one with the flawless pics, interesting social life and outgoing winning personality? We work SO HARD on this, and then spend the rest of the time trying to live up to this unrealistic image and expectation that we have created for ourselves…

And we wonder why people are more unhappy now than ever before?

Perhaps if we spent a little more time barefoot, walking on the grass, or dragging our toes across the sand, and left the smartphone at home for a wee bit, we’d start to experience our lives again in an organic way. We could connect in the ways that humans are supposed to, with conversation, listening, smiles, questions, touch and laughter.

 

Rather than WIFI.

 

 

 

Sunday Muffins: Zucchini, Mushroom, Onion & Feta

Since I had bought these amazing portobello mushrooms, I was determined to make as many yummy things with them as possible (hence the stuffed mushrooms of Friday morning, and the Brunch Bake with mushrooms today)

We are HUGE fans of my savoury muffins, and they don’t last long around here… I thought that I had actually already posted a recipe for my (literally award winning) muffins before because I have shared this one so many times… turns out, no.. and now (since going through my nutritional healthcare course) I have made a few subs to most things (in particular for this one, subbing out white self raising flour for certified organic wholemeal flour – yus!)

You can literally use this muffin recipe and sub in and out your favourite things – the key binding ingredients and the stuff that makes them moist and delicious just must remain the same, in the same quantities:

2 cups organic wholemeal flour
2 eggs (beaten lightly with a fork)
1 cup light milk
1/2 cup sour cream or aioli
2 cups grated cheese

You literally just combine all the above and add what you want for the unique flavours… for these ones I added:

Finely diced onion
Finely diced streaky bacon
Roughly diced portobello mushrooms (remember that mushrooms naturally shrink when you cook them)
Finely diced zucchini
150g crumbled feta
Cracked pepper, and circa 1/2 teaspoon salt (most people don’t season their muffins, bread etc and it makes them BLAND.. trust me, this makes a HUGE batch and therefore it’s not a lot of salt given the size of the mixture)

I combined the above, stirring till fully combined, and then used two spoons to put into the muffin cups.. when full to the top (remember – there is no raising agent so fill them to the top) I put a small handful of pumpkin seeds on top (these toast beautifully and add a crunch and butteriness to the muffins) I have also used pine nuts and sesame seeds before.

Best to TRY and let them cool down, as they are quite gooey when they come out of the oven… these should be baked around 180 for circa 12 minutes or when they go golden brown on top.

This combo NEVER FAILS. I have made muffins with chorizo, with carrot, sausage, you name it – whatever flavour combos you love can be combined and this mix will make them MOIST and delicious.

 

Easy Breakfast Bake

After consuming the better part of an easter egg for breakfast this morning, I decided we needed something a little bit more nutritious for brunch… this took circa 5 mins prep (chopping, fetching ingredients) 7 mins in the pan, and a further 10 mins in the oven (which was ample time to get the vogels into the toaster!)

INGREDIENTS/ METHOD
Finely diced 1/2 medium sized onion
Circa 100g streaky bacon sliced finely (helps it cook faster)
1x large zucchini diced evenly

Toss this all into a large frypan, start heating through…

5x medium sized portobello mushrooms (diced about the same size as the zucchini) thrown into the pan, continue heating through
Add circa 1.5 teaspoons of basil pesto
Then crumble around 100-150g feta and fold in (don’t stir as you want this chunky as it melts)

Pour everything into an oven proof dish (which you will serve it in) then make two ‘wells’ in the dish – crack in two fresh eggs into the wells, and pop the whole dish in the oven on high…

This is the part where you clean as you go… the vogels goes in the toaster, you wrap up/ store/ refrigerate any ingredients not used, wipe your benches, and then put out the cutlery and finely dice fresh parsley for your garnish.

Serve with cut and buttered toast on the side, little plates, spoons for digging in – and don’t forget to pop a wooden chopping board underneath the dish!

Enjoy 🙂

 

Spicy Thai Chicken & Basil Mince on Cous Leaves

So I found a recipe for this dish, which I LOVED in Thailiand… and I changed it, this traditional dish is called LARB.

INGREDIENTS
500g Chicken Mince
3 cloves minced garlic
2x thumb sized nubs of fresh ginger chopped as fine as you can get them
4x teaspoons crushed chilli
2x small pinches of kaffir lime leaves
2x tablespoons oyster or fish sauce
circa 1x teaspoon minced lemongrass
2x tablespoons chicken stock (powdered)
1x tablespoon brown sugar
3x spring onions roughly chopped
small handful coriander roughy chopped
Large handful of fresh basil roughly chopped (which goes in right at the end)

METHOD
Add the garlic, ginger, chilli to a wok with oil, once this softens, add the chicken mince and turn to high. Cook through and as this is cooking add the stock.

Slowly add the remainder of the ingredients – stirring continuously: fish sauce, brown sugar, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, spring onions, coriander… just before you are ready to serve, add the basil so it’s fragrance will be one of the first things you smell…

I then spooned this mixture onto washed/rinsed cous lettuce leaves, onto a platter and you’re ready to serve.

This was my first time trying the dish and I have to say, it was AMAZING.. as with anything, follow your instincts, taste as you go, and don’t forget that thai dishes are all about balancing your sweet, sour, freshness, crunch, and spice…

This took about 10 mins to prep, 15 to cook in the wok and 3 mins to serve up…

 

The things we humans obsess over (Part 2)

So I’ve done 22 days no alcohol now, and I’m feeling pretty good. Previously I’d done 5 weeks in 2013 and that was a monumental exercise in fabulousness. But with this new-ish clarity of thought comes the inevitable reflection on just how utterly obsessed we are with the ‘demon-drink’ …..and I’ve realised how much alcohol is a knee-jerk reaction in modern western society.

 

Had a bad day? A glass of wine will sort that.
Nailed that project at work? You deserve a drink!
Survived the working week with all your limbs intact? Time for a beverage!

 

It’s like drinking is so ingrained into what we do literally day to day that it takes a concerted effort to minimise the ingrained knee-jerk reaction to relax with a drink…..

Think about it:
Oh it’s a beautiful sunny summers night, I’d better make the most of this and go out and have a beer in the sun!
Oh it’s a rainy winters night, freezing out there! I should tuck up with a yummy glass of red wine in front of the fire…

It’s the elixr for the masses, comes in all shapes and sizes, flavours and strengths, colours and packages, it picks you up when you’re down, transforms your face to a smile from a frown, helps lubricate communication all over town, makes you think you can dance and ‘get down’ – it’s what?! ALCOHOL! Yay! *cue mexican wave*

Now I don’t propose to have all the answers to this (or anything for that matter) what I want you to do is simply stop and think for yourself.

To start asking yourself how you feel about drinking…. to see if you resonate with anything I’ve mentioned, and to see if you too could start to challenge the assumptions modern society has placed upon you about drinking. *glug glug*

Could you go a week without drinking? A month? What changes in your social habits would you need to make in order to do this? How would your friends and workmates react?

After almost 10 years in Recruitment (an industry body known for enjoying the ‘odd tipple‘ *cough*) I can hand on heart say that I still enjoy a deep spicy glass of Shiraz, and smooth and velvety Central Otago Pinot Noir, and love the giggly brain-fuzz and silliness from a ridiculously over-priced glass of Champagne…. but my attitude to drinking is slowly changing.

With glorified boozing in adverts tempting me… And bars full of laughing, smiling, beautiful people – waving about their bottles of beer and oh-so-tempting glasses of chilled Pinot Gris as I wander past …I almost feel like I’m ‘sticking it to the man’ some days…. so yeah, fight the power and whatnot, I’m off to pour myself a stiff tea.

 

The things we humans obsess over (part 1)

Lounging around in bed this morning, putting off the inevitable part of the day where I get up and pretend to be a responsible adult, I found myself reading an article about the Oscars most important fashion moments (or some equally inane drivel) and promptly gave myself an internal donk on the head.

This was an article about image, style, impression, capturing a moment, icons, zeitgeist and the like all wrapped up in a piece of material draped around a body. Because that’s just it, isn’t it? It’s material? Didn’t we first decide to wrap ourselves in things because we don’t have fur? Wasn’t it so we didn’t freeze our nips off in the ice age? Or was it because of a gaping realisation that we were cruising around nekkid in a fabulous garden (and had been for ages, why didn’t someone say something??) and thought that a leaf would be an appropriate cover for the bits the god gave us?

So when did necessity (the mother of invention, and by that logic the father of pants) become such an obsession? It’s not ‘what you’re wearing’ but “who are you wearing dahhling?” and since when did we judge a persons worth on their ability to look good in a piece of fabric?

And why (this is the biggest issue of all really) do I own so many dresses, and yet constantly find myself looking for more?

Pants are overrated, but what’s so awful about the human body that we’re all more obsessed with covering it up, than embracing the glorious-ness of our own bits?

Why do we need to primp, preen, nip, tuck, starve, paint and hide ourselves…. why do we let that piece of material speak for us?

 

Chickpea & Blue Cheese Summer Salad

Another quick & delish easy salad combo to share….

INGREDIENTS/ METHOD
300g reduced salt tinned chickpeas
Two large handfuls mix lettuce leaves
Circa 150g creamy blue cheese cut into squares
Handful fresh picked green beans cut roughly the size of your thumbnail
1 red capsicum, cut same size
Small 1/3 handful of pumpkin seeds (toast them in a pan for extra nutty-ness)

This is super-quick to throw together, and great with a small drizzle of balsamic vinegar… perfect for a filling healthy late summer lunch…

 

Easy Homemade Bread

This is something I tend to do more in winter, but I was so inspired by the markets and their delish offerings yesterday, and it was a good warm day, perfect for raising dough….

The pic below is the black pepper, garlic and thyme focaccia I made yesterday, and it’s topped with fresh smoked mozzerella from the market (that stuff is amazing and almost deserves it’s own post, you can cook it like haloumi for goodness sake!)

Back to the bread…. making fresh bread is so freaking easy. Seriously. Once you do it for the first time you’ll be blown away by how simple and completely rewarding it can be to combine what is essentially four key ingredients…. (Flour, Active Dry Yeast, Water, Salt)

All bread recepies have slight variations, I love focaccia and it’s a great starter for your bread-making journey….

INGREDIENTS
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (NB: can sub wholemeal flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 pinch ground black pepper

METHOD
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil and black pepper. Mix in the vegetable oil and water.

When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Punch dough down; place on greased baking sheet. Pat into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Brush top with olive oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

 

Some of my fav combos:
Rosemary, garlic, olive oil, salt
Thyme, mushrooms, olive oil, salt
Black olives, salt, olive oil
Semi dried tomatoes, feta, salt, olive oil

 

Seriously… Go nuts. Cooking and play are best friends, creating something totally new out of different ingredients is one of life’s simple pleasures.

NB: one of the first things I’ve learned about in my nutrition course is the way that ‘white flour’ is processed, this is why I’ve put the sub in for wholemeal flour. Another post coming to outline this.

 

 

Stuffed Breakfast Mushrooms

Easy & tasty breakfast idea.. simply fresh large portobello mushrooms, and in the case of these pics, in one we have chorizo, parmesan, thinly sliced red capsicum, chives and pine nuts… too easy!

METHOD
Mix everything in a small bowl, scoop out the stalk of the mushrooms, stuff the mixture in, then pour a light drizzle of olive oil.
Pop them into a pre-heated oven at circa 150 for around 10-12 mins or until the cheese melts and the pine nuts become golden.

Other great combos:
Feta/ basil/ garlic/ mozzarella
Cheddar/ bacon/ red onion/ chives/ dollop of creme friaché once they come out of the oven
Ricotta/ red onion/ thyme

 

The possibilities are delicious and endless! Breakfast doesn’t have to be boring…

 

 

Aunty T’s Chilli

We’re still in the so-called summer months here at the moment, but it’s been a bit cold, and I’ve been recovering from a nasty virus, so in the interests of a tasty healthy meal I decided to haul myself out of bed, and make a big pot of slow-cooked chilli. The best thing about this is that it tastes even better the following days, as the juices soak in. It’s straightforward, healthy and hearty, and it just cooks away as you go about your life (or go back to bed in my case!)

Caution: lots of chilli in this one, just half or 1/3 it if you like, but remember to layer the different types of chilli as this builds the flavour)

INGREDIENTS
1 kg chuck steak/stewing steak
2 large onions
2 teaspoons garlic
2 teaspoons chilli flakes in oil
2 teaspoons crushed chilli paste
2 teaspoons dried chilli
2 fresh chillis (seeds/membranes in for extra kick)
1x large (400g) tin of tomatoes
2x heaped tablespoons beef stock (minimum)
1x 300g tin red kidney beans

METHOD
Now you can do this one of two ways, brown the beef in a pan (recommended) or if you’re short on time just throw everything in the slow cooker and let it get going. When you brown the meat it does have a lovely rich flavour, but if you’re making this before you scoot off to work you’re not going to be stoked about an extra step so it’s up to you….

I slow cook the above ingredients for a minimum of 6 hours, it needs this much because this is a tough cut of meat, and after the right amount of time, it will fall apart in your mouth…

Around 45 mins before serving I roughly cut up 3x medium-large zucchini, and 2x large red capsicums, to around 3/3cms – chunky and as uniform in size as you can get it. Throw this in, stir it up, and let it soak up the flavours.

Around 20 minutes before serving I also add around 1.5 cups of rice. Theses days I use a pre-cooked bag of Uncle Toby’s rice because it’s easy and fast…. if you want to go the traditional route you should add this (cleaned/ drained so it doesn’t make everything gluggy) at least 2 hours before you plan to serve.

Keep tasting as you go, to ensure the textures and flavours are where you want them to be.

Serving: I served with garlic pita bread, but you can make a wonderfully easy focaccia to go with this, it soaks the juices up (and believe me, people will be scraping the bowl!)

Great for Autumn, Winter or whenever you need a little comfort food.

 

NB: pro-tip, sometimes dishes like this just don’t seem to ‘pop’ the way we want them to, on those days I add a sneaky pinch of cinnamon to the slow cooker, and it’s just magic.