A four power tool weekend

It wasn’t that restful but it was a good weekend. An early start for an ambulance shift in Taumarunui saw an extension into the afternoon after two jobs in the morning…no more eventuated but the afternoon was a good opportunity to get some hands-on with the on-board monitors. I got home with the best intentions of starting on the lawns but my pre-mow poo patrol took us into twilight.

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“Never repeat”? I wish but unlikely…

That, with a 4AM alarm, saw an easy dinner of sous vide corn beef with another crack at Jen Rice’s broccoli and cranberry salad.

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Sous vide brings out the colour in red meat…

The original recipe on the Anova website recommended cooking for 48-72 hours (gives a whole new meaning to slow cooking!) but the follow-on comments suggested that this was over-cook and likely to result in a mushy mess. As the uncooked beef felt a little mushy, I let it run in the sous vice for ‘only’ about ten hours. I’ve mastered by sous vide technique and use clothes pegs to secure a shopping bag around the top of the cooking pot to prevent the water evaporating and then stack a few tea towels on top to keep in the heat. Comfortable that running low on water during an untended sous vide won’t be an issue, I could have left this on much longer – just would have needed to have a Plan B for dinner on Saturday night…

While nice, the corned beef was still a little gristley…I expect that a 3-4 times increase in the cook time would address this…Unlike the normal cooking method for corned beef i.e. in a pot of water, sous vide traps all the fluids and flavours in the bag. With corn beef this means that the salt taste is much more defined…not so much stronger as sharper…definitely onto something with this dish! The salty beef works so well with the sweetness of the cranberries and the bitter effect of the balsamic broccoli.

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Dessert was a nibble on these coconut almond cookies – sweeter than the ones I made last year – than leaven the coconut almond meal (which is quite heavy) with homeground flour and coconut flour. It also has more sugar so are a tad sweeter. These are really filling and it only takes a couple to fill any post-main gaps…They’re based on this recipe from Celebrating Sweets but modified to lighten the heavier meal left-over from my nut milk production…

I’m not sure what scales exist for measuring the satisfaction of an outdoor working day but the number of power tools used must surely be one of them. Sunday was a glorious bluebird day that boded well for getting on top of lawns and clearing the scrubby self-seeds from the lounge windows outlook. Four power tools this day…I fired up the cheap Chinese chainsaw and diced up the logs that had been sitting opposite the garage for months, then laid into the scrub in front of the lounge.

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The plan is to eventually open access into all the punga groves in front of the lounge…

Powertool #2 was the dropsaw mounted on an old school desk that we use for dicing up wood for the chippy, anything less than about five inches in thickness. It makes reducing logs to chippy-sized chunks a breeze and the saw dust goes into the compost bin as a dry mix to offset the wet mass waste from the kitchen.

The old reliable mulcher was #3 into the mix, converting leaves and smaller branches into four bags of mulch to fill out hollows in the ground for later landscaping. The mulcher has had a long hard life but keeps on keeping on. It’s more than paid for itself in unpaid dumping fees at the transfer station and the associated fuel costs for the round trip with the each trailer load of green waste…

It’s been a very wet not-summer – the recent break of ten days or so of sunny weather were the longest such break we have had for the better part of a year – and I have resorted to using the big ride-on to just keep on top of the lawns and prevent them totally running away. Even they were quite long and it felt good to finally be able to power up the mower and knock them down to a respectable level. Even more satisfying to be able to mow around the area when the now diced logs had been residing for so long. The many loads of grass went with the mulch to smooth out hollows in the ground for later compacting and shaping….

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So nice to finally clear this area…the baths will go up on blocks next…

It’s been a long time since I had such a satisfying day in the garden: I crashed with a V (a now rare sweet treat!) to start on the next series of JAG (so shoot me!) as my reward…

Carry a big stick…

TACAPP

Further on the safety message aspect of this post and the comments, a local crew has just released a new app that comprehensively covers the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and the Mt Ngauruhoe side trail…yes, you have to pay for it – a whole $2.99 – but it is worth it as both a top reference to the walk and as the one stop shop of what you need to know before you set out…

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.greattrailsoftheworld.tac

The World According to Me...

…or to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt “Tread carefully and carry a big stick“…two concepts directly related to my summit of Mt Ngauruhoe yesterday…

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This is Stick. Stick is a little miffed that it missed out on going up Mt Tongariro last week, but that’s kinda what happens when you hide away in a dark corner of the garage. Stick is way more useful than lightweight aluminium walking poles which are too flimsy to brace your weight against. Stick is also really good as a counter-balance and a brace when descending scree slopes…

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Tuesday and yesterday offered the best weather windows for another go at Ngauruhoe; yesterday had the least wind and Tuesday was off the list when I remembered that I had to speak to a visiting Duke of Edinburgh group from Karamu School. The day opening with a beautifully clear sunset that boded well for the day’s adventure.

Mt Ngauruhoe…

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Pistachio, chia seeds and vanilla “icecream”…

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The first fire training night after I got back from my training course the Fire Services’s  National Training Centre in Rotorua was our first Brigade meeting for the year. These are every two month and are where we decided on allocation of funds and resource, develop training programmes etc. In our Brigade we always lay on a dinner.

I normally draw dessert – our dinners are all self-cooked: everyone contributes to a course. This time I wanted to play with some of the ideas I’d hoovered up off the ‘Net in the previous few weeks. I settled on three recipes to make a single disk but the way it panned out, I ended up with two separate desserts.

Plan A was for a  pistachio chia pudding layered with a plum cream topped with a dairy-free vanilla ice cream. The layered part went together OK, although my layering needs work as you can see from the image above.

I had to double both recipes as I was preparing for fourteen – that’s a lot of pistachios to shell and ideally to fill the cups I would have needed the same again. The pistachio flavour is very strong and distinctive: it went OK with the plum cream layer but both would have been better if served separately- next time I do this recipe, I’ll be thinking more along the lines of three sampler deserts with plain ice cream…

The ice cream just didn’t work and, going on many comments on the page, that’s more down to the recipe than anything that I did or didn’t do. Simply the recipe, Jamie Oliver or not, does not contain any ingredients that will set it. A more recent note on the recipe page says that the staff will have a look at it. What I ended up with was a large vanilla-flavoured ice block with not the slightest creamy characteristic.

My Plan B recovery plan was to grab a tub of TipTop vanilla ice cream from the local GAS petrol station and Four Square dairy – when they learned it was for the Brigade dinner, they kindly refused to charge me for it…thanks, team!

The ice cream was the common denominator between the pistachio and plum dessert and what was now a rich vanilla cream over ice cream dessert. The pistachio and plum dessert would have been better served as two separate option and not layered in the same cup – next I’ll serve each of the three desserts in separate corners of a dinner plate, with a scope of ice cream in the middle.

I;m quite keen to play more with pistachios as the flavour is so distinctive and strong; the plum cream I could take or leave but the vanilla ‘cream’ was to die for – seriously: rich, sweet and strong…unfortunately not enough survived for any photos…next time..

 

 

Literal green pizza

Playing with toys again…had to wait weeks before the Todo pizza makers showed up again at NZSale…only a third of the price they go for at Mighty Ape…Yes, I know I can make pizzas in the oven but I was interested in something that might offer a more portable pizza-ing experience and a new toy (plus it IS in Deadpool colours)

p70101-192150I made a few conventional dough-based pizzas but I’d been hearing for a while about vegetable bases for pizzas. Being gifted a full head of broccoli seemed like a perfect opportunity to try this (plus a head of broccoli goes a loooong way in conventional meals).

I found this recipe at Gothamist. It was easy, easy, easy…I put some baking paper down case it stuck but I need not have worried: the base pan is super-non-stick.

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The topping was just whatever was in the fridge: tomato, pineapple, yellow capsicum and some mozzarella…

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Forgot to add the tomato sauce base (store-bought pasta sauce) so applied over the top of the other toppings…

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Came out OK…cooked for about 20 minutes…even though the base is a full head of broccoli, the taste is quite subtle and not as overpowering as you might expect – probably a good way to sneak soem veges into unwilling younger diets…

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I use the pizza make quite often with a variety of bases, including store-bought ones which are good to rush meals and also wraps, although these need some care so that the more liquid toppings don’t flow off the edge…

No cheese cheesecake #4

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If I stopped looking at Facebook, I’d stop getting these inspirations…I thought I was done with the ‘ no cheese’ cheesecake thing (#1, #2, #3) but this one just looked too good not to try…It’s another Nadia Lim creation, a bit pricier than the others only because avos area  little pricey at the moment: not a problem in season or if you are lucky enough to have your own tree…

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I need some more practice building a  level base as it always seems to build up unevenly around the edges, giving this untidy appearance of more base than filling: it is actually, more filling than base, just doesn’t look it…

My base was simply the meal left over from a batch of almond/coconut milk (a litre of milk gives up exactly the right amount of meal for the base). The avocado gives the filling a silky smooth texture and the lime zest and juice adds a real zing to the flavour – or it would if the only limes at New World that week weren’t nasty little dried up things with nary a drop of juice….and if my back bottle of lime juice had more than half the required cup of lime juice.

I’m tempted to try this again this week with the full charge of lime to see how much zingier it is…it was OK this time but I felt the lost zing potential…

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I did make the berry coulis recommended in the recipe but tossed in the last of the coconut milk just to expend it…tasted OK but the milk neutered the sharp crisp berry taste…should have just used water like last time…

Still…it went very nicely with ice cream down at the station…

 

Dairy-free (almost) trifle

I volunteered part of the dessert for the National Park Village Fire Brigade Christmas dinner – we opted to eat in over going out as we’re a pretty foodie brigade and there’s none of the logistic hassles…

In our family, Christmas dessert can be many things but it’s not what it is unless there’s pavlova and trifle on the table – and the trifle should be strong enough to strip paint or sedate small children at ten paces…I wanted to keep it fairly green so this is a combination of a number of recipes that kept it as natural and as free of dairy and processed ingredients as possible.

The sponge

This was nice and simple: I just used my coconut flour pumpkin muffin recipe and baked it as a sponge instead of as individual muffins. I did cheat a little and bought a back-up sponge from New World just in case that mix didn’t work or if I needed more sponge than the original mix provided.

The jelly

I’ve always found packet jellies to to be rather weak and unnatural flavour-wise and one of the themes of my Green Journey has been to reduce the amount of processed food in my diet, or at least, reduce the number of processing steps between me and the raw material.A bit of Googling found me a good recipe for real fruit jelly. I opted for orange juice instead of the apple in the recipe and also used fresh-squeezed juice not stuff from a bottle.

Let me tell, you, a litre of fresh-squeezed orange juice takes a lot of squeezing!! I don’t think I have squeezed that many oranges since winning a bottle of vanilla Galliano and kicking of the great Harvey Wallbanger craze of 2012…the pithy problem with oranges and such is that you can’t just drop them in the juicer…still a good arm workout!

I don’t think that I mixed the gelatin in properly as the jelly never ‘jelled’ even after a full overnight in the fridge. It tasted awesome and very fruity though and the sponge soaked up enough of it that the trifle didn’t turn into a big slush bowl.

The custard

I wasn’t sure if a non-dairy custard would behave the same as a traditional milk-based one so I bought a litre of cows milk, just in case. I needn’t have worried as Cast Iron Cookie’s recipe for dairy-free custard performed as advertised. When you get down to step 10, don’t wait start pouring…I hesitated and the custard almost set in the pot. Knowing this, next time, I’ll pour as soon as the first bubble appears AND have the final fruit topping layer ready to place on/in it as soon as the custard is poured.

I used a layer of whipped cream – lightened with Greek yoghurt (100 ml cream to 200 grams of yoghurt)- just to hold the Kiwifruit topping in place.

The other

As I mentioned above, trifle in my family should be able to strip paint or sedate small children at ten paces. To achieve this result, you need to add some quantity of alcohol. The recipe I consulted recommended a half-cup 50/50 mix of brandy and sherry: NOT nearly enough: this provided scarcely a hint of the desired effect and would probably need to be be doubled at least…

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Pretty stink photo, sorry, snapped it just coming out of the fridge for seconds…

Beetroot and prunes in breadless burgers

While not in the market for another burger mix, the bright colours that accompanied the recipe on Sugar Soil hooked me: any healthy benefits aside, most beetroot recipes have striking colours and this one was no exception…

I made the mix i n accordance with the recipe on line but next time I thin l’ll aim for a mix with more even proportions of the beans, beetroot and prunes: I foud that the sweetness of the prunes rather underwhelming even though I did add more than the recipe quantities.

On a whim, I also decided to have a play with breadless burgers…Empowered Sustenace had some good ideas...it wasn’t difficult and I’m keen to try some of the other ideas as well. The most successful in this go-round was the mushroom evolution: fried just enough to bring out the flavour, and then stacked with the usual fillings burger-style…

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Mushroom ‘buns’

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Open burger on an eggplant ‘bun’

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Open burgers on pepper ring bases

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Mushroom and eggplant ‘buns’

Very tasty, with crisp clear flavours and surprisingly filling…no dairy, no nuts, no meat, no bread, no sugars, no hassle…

No Cheese Cheesecake #3

Continuing my cheeseless cheesecake theme from before Christmas – yes, it has been a while since I did some writing! – this was the third (#1, #2)recipe that I wanted to try: not only cheeseless but also raw…it is from The Awesome Green and, apart from increasing the mix for a bigger dish, it is pretty much out of the box…

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The base is the simplest of the three: all you need is:

  • 2 cups of dry pitted dates, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup of raw almonds

Placed them in a food processor and blend them until you get a sticky mix: spread this evenly across the base of your pan – I used a 9″ spring form, lined with baking paper just in case the base needed some support when lifted out of the pan – needn’t have worried: it was sturdy as and easily popped out and on to a plate.

For the filling you need:

  • 4 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • 2 lemons, juice only
  • 1 cup of coconut milk*
  • 4 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Drain the cashews and place them in the food processor  with the lemon juice,
coconut milk and raw honey.Process into a smooth cream.

Pour the cashew mixture in the pan on top of the crust, and spread evenly.

Because I doubled the mix for a larger pan, I made the filling in two batches. My plan was to add some blueberries to the second batch for a layered result but I my haste to get it done, I forgot to check whether the first batch had set before pouring in the second, hence the inner/outer effect you can see below…

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Done properly, it would have looked quite good but adding blueberries to both batches would have been even better.

To top off the topping – as a last minute addition to the plan – I tossed some semi-frozen strawberries, raspberries and blackberries into the blender for a berry coulis to pour over the top.

Happy with the final product but next time, I think I’ll add some vanilla ice cream…

* The recipe said “...use homemade for the raw version or full fat for the vegan one...” I used homemade coconut milk (well, 3:1 coconut/almond) and I don’t see how this could upset any vegan sensibilities as all it is is coconut, almond and water…

Coconut Flour Muffins

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I had a pumpkin that was rapidly approaching its ‘best by’ date so I pureed it through the food mill and then looked for recipes to consume the product (being – allegedly – summer, I wasn’t leaning towards soups) I also had a bag of coconut that was had yet to contribute meaningfully to my Green Journey. This recipe from Small Footprint Family helped solve part of my problem…

The Makin’s

  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons of coconut oil or butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground mace or pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of sifted coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

The Making

Blend together the eggs, coconut oil, pumpkin puree, sweetener, cinnamon, mace, salt and vanilla.

Add the coconut flour and baking powder and blend into a batter until there are no lumps.

Pour the batter into greased muffin cups.

Decorate the muffin tops with a pecan or shredded coconut. I skipped this because I was in a hurry.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 18 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Insights

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Tasted OK.

Would have tasted better with a topping.

A bit heavy for my liking but my last exploration with coconut flour had a similar effect – I’m not sure if that is inherent in that sort of flour of if it’s just me..

No Cheese Cheese Cake #2

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My original intention for the ‘welcome back, firefighter‘ dessert had been to create two different ones but the logistics of that just didn’t pan out that Tuesday bake night…The filling had left me with quite an amount of greek yogurt and condensed milk _ which I don’t normally use that often – still to consume…

My selection for my second no cheese cheesecake was the New World Raw Blueberry Cheesecake slice but it didn’t use any of the greek yogurt of condensed milk that I still needed to burn up. I thought that this mousse from La Cocina Mexicana de Pily woulld make a good topping.

The base

  • ¾ cup (100 g) raw cashews
  • 1 cup (100 g) ground almonds
  • ½ cup (70 g) raisins
  • 2 cups (160 g) desiccated coconut
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted

Grease a 20 cm x 30 cm slice tin and line with non-stick baking paper.I couldn’t find a slice tin and hand to make do with this:

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I worried all day that the base would disintegrate into a crumbly disaster when we served it up but it set hard and strong.

Place the cashews in a food processor and pulse in bursts until they turn into a fine, sandy, flour-like consistency, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl often.

When ready, add the ground almonds and pulse to combine. Add the raisins and pulse until lightly blended. Add the desiccated coconut and pulse again.

Lastly, add the coconut oil, blending until well combined.

Press the mixture into the prepared tin in an even layer.

Place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up.

The filling

  • ¼ cup (35 g) raw cashews
  • 6 tbsp (90 ml) lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 2 tbsp coconut cream
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup (70 g) frozen blueberries, defrosted
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted

 

Place the cashews in the food processor. Pulse in bursts until the nuts turn into a fine, sandy, flour-like consistency.

Add all the remaining ingredients except the coconut oil, and pulse again until combined.

Add the coconut oil and blend until well combined. Pour the mixture over the base.

The topping

  • 2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cups hot water
  • 300mls of greek yoghurt
  • 100 grams condensed milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Puree the yogurt, condensed milk, and vanilla extract in a blender until smooth. I reduced the quantities of these items proportion to the amount of yogurt that was leftover.
Dissolve the gelatin in the hot water. I forgot to reduce these ingredients as I did the others so the amount of gelatin was about four times what it should have been. The topping was thus a tab rubbery but still tasted alright.
Add this to the blender and puree again.

Place in the refrigerator overnight to set. Once set, it will keep for 4–5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Cut into slices when ready to serve.

The topping not used

The mousse recipe included a berry topping to be poured over the top but I was a bit rushed on Wednesday afternoon before fire training and didn’t get it done…next time…

  • 300 grams mixed berries
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • water (as needed)

Puree the berries, sugar, and water in the blender until smooth.

Pour over the top just before serving…