Saturday, February 26, 2011

Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup

Tonight we had the most delicious, simple and satisfying meal.  We ate outside because the weather is superb in Sydney at the moment.

Earlier in the day I had experimented with my new perforated baguette pan and made three par-baked baguettes to be frozen for use another day. 
Yeah, a bit wonky I know.  A work in progress...
When I decided that tomato soup would be the order of the day, I quickly reassigned one of the baguettes for garlic bread.  I sliced the bread stick part way through and spread the insides with garlic butter (made in the TMX of course, using one of the roasted garlic cloves from the soup - see below).  I spread the top of the baguette with more butter and wrapped it in foil ready for baking while the soup was cooking.

I had a kilo of Roma tomatoes waiting in the freezer for just such an occasion, so I whipped them out, straight onto an oven tray and into the oven.  Of course, this isn't exactly what the recipe calls for, however, it worked in a pinch.  They leached a lot of liquid, which I just ended up using as part of the "water" as called for in the recipe.  Absolutely satisfied with the result.  So was my son...
Can you tell he likes soup?  I think some went INTO his mouth as well!

Ingredients

  • 1 kg Roma tomatoes
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons TM vege stock concentrate
  • 500 grams water
  • 1 cup basil, finely shredded

Directions

1. Halve tomatoes lengthwise and place cut side up on an oven tray. Separate cloves from head of garlic (don't peel) and scatter them around the tray. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in a hot oven (200ºC) for 40 minutes or until tender.
2. Place the onion in the TM bowl and chop for 5 seconds on speed 5. Add the olive oil and saute for 3 minutes at 100ºC, speed 1. Add the tomato paste and cook for an additional minute at 100ºC, speed 1.
3. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from their skins into the TM bowl. Add the roasted tomatoes and half the shredded basil together with the vege stock concentrate and water. Blend briefly for 15 seconds, speed 9.
4. Cook for 8 minutes at 100ºC speed 1. Blend again for 30 seconds bringing the speed up slowly to speed 9.
5. Serve sprinkled with the reserved shredded basil and some crusty (garlic) bread on the side.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Real Food" Evangelism?

I feel like I'm at the edge of a shark infested ocean, just dipping my toes in, in the hopes that I can make it through the danger on all sides to reach a tropical island paradise (read: banana lounges, palm trees, good books, cocktails, fabulous finger food and all my family and friends).  If I look back over my shoulder, everything is hazy and fading out of view.  How did I get here?  And more importantly, how do I react should I make it to said paradise?
It all started with a chance comment about Arnott's Milk Arrowroot biscuits (a favourite with the younglings in my mother's group) having fewer additives in the list of ingredients than the no brand version.  Who knew?  Who cared?  Apparently the comment maker did, particularly with reference to her child eating the snack, and so therefore, being a curious type, I decided to investigate. 

Coincidentally and completely independently at about the same time, my bestie asked me if I'd heard of a cooking machine which had a name that started with Thermo or Thermie?  No, not a clue what you're talking about, love, but I love the challenge of finding out what it is.

I googled many variations on the theme; "thermo cooking machine"; "therm blender" etc, until I came across http://www.thermomix.com.au and I was sure I'd found what I was looking for.  During the search, I came across numerous blogs (to many of which I now subscribe) espousing the virtues of the machine for preparing and cooking "from scratch" and "without additives and preservatives".

If I could describe the sound of a light bulb turning on, I would insert it <here>.

The more I read, the more I found.  When information isn't necessarily presented on one platter right under our noses, it encourages us (well, me at least) to look further and to look harder.  Unfortunately, when it comes to food (and many other things, let's be honest), the information that is served to us on a platter on a daily basis is that which is ultimately designed to gain money for Big Business and through their taxes, the Government.

I found Forum Thermomix, an absolute gold mine for all things Thermomix (and also many things non-Thermomix).  This forum gathers together thousands of people who use a Thermomix, or yearn to do so, and reading some of the posts provides a wealth of information related to food and health.  This reading and researching led me to Cyndi O'Meara (Changing Habits, Changing Lives) and ultimately to the Weston A. Price Foundation.  I read and pondered and read and pondered some more.  Many things Cyndi and the Foundation are on about resonate completely with me.
In the context of this blog post, eating a Weston A. Price diet would be my island paradise, and I'm currently dabbling my toes in it by making most things at home from scratch.  The major parts of this picture that I'm still currently missing are:
  • soaking grains/legumes
  • starting a sourdough culture and making sourdough bread (my favourite style of bread so it's just starting that is the hold up here - I do make most of our bread and occasionally buy a loaf of sourdough)
  • drinking raw milk (I will be able to obtain this when our family moves home to Adelaide in about 6 months time.  Until then I am buying organic unhomogenised full cream milk for myself and my oldest son.  Youngest son is still breastfeeding and hubby, well, prefers lite milk.)
  • eating organic fruits and vegetables (when we move, I hope to start growing some of our fruits & vegies)
  • eating organ meat (enough said...for now)
  • fermented foods
The sharks that are circling are:
  • my husband's reticence to change (a common theme I'm discovering in cyberspace), and is related to
  • my ability to transfer the knowledge of what I am learning without preaching
  • cost of organic fruit and vegetables in a monetary sense (although I'm really yet to do all the sums)
  • my attitude, and that of my friends and family
  • time management, budgeting and resource management (lol...but it's true!)
Looking back over my shoulder from the edge of the ocean, the picture behind me is hazy because I hardly remember what it was like to be ignorant of this stuff.  I don't remember the last time I picked up something from a supermarket shelf and didn't read the fine print on the label.  And therein lies a bit of a problem.  I think I'm becoming a bit of a Real Food Evangelist or perhaps even a Born Again Real Foodie.  I'm not sure I like it, I'm not sure my friends like it and I'm not sure if you will like it.

I have never enjoyed being told that there is only one "right" way to be, and only one "right" way to get to where you're going.  I hate being preached to.  I don't want to be doing that to my family or my friends, and yet, I find myself:
  • making comments about how "item 'x' is so much better for your health than item 'y'"
  • emailing various informative links to friends to help them "understand".
I try very hard not to...but I do...because at the heart of it, I just want people to be healthy, happy and hanging around with me for a long time to come.  And I want people to see through the marketing spin that we are fed on a platter every day of our lives that we often digest without question.  Being totally crass, I want to see many people giving Big Business a big middle finger.  Yay and thank goodness for The Gruen Transfer.  A great, entertaining TV program that shows us how marketing firms and their clients try to convince us that their product is necessary in our lives, and in many cases how it is better for our health.  Best of all, it's non-threatening and it is, truly, entertaining.

Most people display apathy towards food and health issues...it sparks an evangelistic, emotional and passionate response from those that are "enlightened" to try to snap them out of it, but I don't think that often works, especially in Australia.  Many people in Australia often react negatively to a passionate display about anything that is controversial.  We don't want to be seen to have a strong opinion.  We don't like tall poppies...as the saying goes.  How many of your friends display political party signs in their front yards when the elections are on?  How many people do you know who are openly supportive or otherwise about gay marriage?  Do you care about eating meat where the animal has been raised in a feedlot, never seeing sunlight?  Are you still reading this?  ;-)

My opinion is that most people don't want to know about these kinds of things because it might lead to change; the status quo could be disrupted.  Most people really are just fine with things the way they are.  Case in point: my dear, dear husband.  I know in his heart he agrees with eating natural foods as much as possible, but he is afraid that he'll "miss out on good things like Hungry Jacks"!.  He, too, is resistant to change and I know that it is because he is under a lot of stress at the moment.  When he is stressed at work, he just wants life at home to continue on as normal.  He is a creature of habit and needs stability and familiarity at home to recharge before heading back into the fray.  So, for the time being I'm working on providing some substitutes which I cook at home from scratch such as:
  • Kerrie Farm Chicken Coating (a huge winner in this house as a sub for KFC)
  • Pizza (again, a huge favourite and preferred over home delivered)
  • Burgers (using homemade bread, beef mince patties and salad)
  • Thai Red Chicken Curry (EDC recipe...we love it)
  • Cottage Rolls (sub for sausage rolls)
  • and others...
And, if after that he wants something from a takeaway, we have it.  And to be honest, it doesn't happen very often.

Overall, the key for us has to be BALANCE.  I've got my goals noted down, and I'll be working towards them.  I don't think this is something that can be achieved overnight, and I certainly don't expect that.  I also don't expect that we eat this way 100% of the time.  That is unrealistic and will only lead to stress.  As long as these changes are happening within my home, and that when we have guests over I feed them the same wholesome food, then that is sufficient for me.  When it comes to "real food", I'll be happy to be a worker bee and let others be the evangelical Queen bees.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day

 I haven't cooked or baked anything of note recently until yesterday when I decided to try out an AWW golden oldie recipe for gingerbread biscuits.  This was inspired by some playdough "baking" with my 2 year old.
I offered them to my husband to take to work with him to share with the boys, but he wasn't keen.  Can't imagine why?!



Ingredients

  • 125 grams butter
  • 100 grams brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 375 grams plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 125 ml golden syrup
  • Royal Icing
    • 240 grams pure icing sugar
    • 1 egg white

Directions


1. Place butter, sugar and egg yolk in TM bowl. Mix for 30 seconds, speed 5. Scrape down and repeat if necessary. Weigh in remaining ingredients and mix for 10 seconds, speed 5. Set dial to lid closed and knead for 30 seconds. Tip out onto lightly floured board or silicone mat and bring together with hands. Roll dough between 2 sheets of baking paper until 3mm thick.
2. Cut gingerbread shapes from dough.
3. Place gingerbread shapes about 3cm apart on greased oven trays. Bake in moderate oven for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on trays. Spoon icing into piping bag fitted with a small plain tube, decorate shapes as desired.
4. Royal Icing: Wash out TM bowl.  Place butterfly in TM bowl, and the egg white.  Whip on speed 4 for 30 seconds.  Still on speed 4, add the sifted icing sugar through the lid gradually until mixture is of a piping consistency.  I used the whole amount and took another 2 minutes to add it all.  Colour as desired. Keep royal icing covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying out.
 
Happy Valentines Day!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cheese & Bacon Rolls & Spiced Fruit Muffins

The perfect Sunday lunch, and the rest frozen for lunches and snacks for the week.  This may yet become a Sunday ritual...although probably not, as those of you who are familiar with Forum Thermomix will know, there are more recipes to be had there than one could cook in a year probably!

The Cheese & Bacon Rolls are divine (recipe here).  Thanks maddy for sharing this deliciousness with my family...they are loved by all.

Thermocauldron is a blog that I follow and Emma has posted some great recipes that have become staples in this family...one being her version of custard - I don't use the EDC version anymore, and now there is another.  This is the Spiced Fruit Muffin recipe which she has adapted from The Pocket Muffin Book by Syd Pemberton.  I absolutely love spices in my sweet things...fruit buns, muffins, cheesecake crusts...so I knew I would love this muffin recipe.  I especially love the tip about being able to use whatever tinned fruit may be on hand.  Today, I used plums, which I thought would go well with the spices.  I made 6 large muffins and will make another batch with the rest of the fruit (I opened an 800g tin).  Scrumptious!  Thanks for the recipe Emma.
Happy muffin days!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cottage Rolls


This recipe caught my eye on Forum Thermomix.  Not because they're vegetarian (depending on the pastry used), but mainly because they contain quite a few vegies and it's wrapped in pastry.  This means it's pretty much guaranteed that my 2 year old will eat them.  I wasn't wrong!

I tried out the Rough Puff Pastry recipe from the EDC and I want to try it again.  I don't think I got it right this time, but it didn't matter, the taste of it is great!

A simple and very delicious snack or light meal (or fabulous to freeze and whip out when motivation is lacking!).

Get the recipe here.  Thanks Denzelmum!

Happy days!