Thursday, March 19, 2015

BC Mountain #1 Completed

Ok ok, so maybe this isn't very impressive but I finally climbed a Canadian mountain. By mountain I say Burnaby Mountain. Sounds impressive but its not. 320m elevation total. That sounds tiny but to me it wasn't. I was originally planning to do another route that I showed on a previous post (now deleted, sorry). I will do that route another time as I seem to get some kind of sick pleasure from hiking steep hills and that route wasn't steep enough for me haha. So heres what my 'mountain' route looked like:

My starting point was at Craftsman Collision (a panel beater company) at the 3 way fork of St Johns Rd, Clarke Rd and Barnet Hwy. I then walked up Clarke Rd (a short but notoriously steep road that even cars have difficulty getting up). I then turned R) at Mt Royal Drive where the hill then plateau'ed which allowed my "warm up" to end and my legs could relax for 10 mins as I walked through a nice quiet suburb til I reached one of the tracks on the east side of the mountain. I originally planned to do a difficult level track called the "Gear Jammer" that goes directly west up the mountain in a zig zag fashion but signs said it was closed (maybe it's only open in the Summer months?) It is still technically early spring here and even though we've been having wonderfully sunny days, its still quite cold and wet at the top and as such a lot of rain water comes down this time of year. So anyway I was forced to pick a new route, perhaps that was for the best as I have not had a hill workout quite as much as this one. I ended up instead hiking around the North East face of the mountain and following the Trans-Canadian Trail a part of the way. That trail in its entirety spans from Vancouver Island all the way to the other side of the country in St John's (NewFoundland & Labrador).  The third trail that was off the Trans-Canadian was called 'Cardiac Hill'. Cardiac - HA! How true to its name. It looks short on the map but I believe of the four Burnaby Mt tracks that short hike took me the longest because it was nearly almost a vertical climb and I had to take a breather every 10m. I would have taken pictures of the track but I really had more important things on my mind - like breathing.

Heres a close up of the Burnaby Mountain track:

Heres a great shot of Port Moody (where I walked from) from on top of Burnaby Mountain:

Picture copyright:

Surely that photo proves that I was on top a mountain? Right? Hahaha.. We'll see.. Its a good start don't you think?

After this hike I burned 723 Calories! Whoa. It took me 1 hour 20 minutes total. Afterwards I had a healthy orange and peanut butter and banana sandwich to eat along with my bottle of water however I had the biggest craving for salt I had experienced in a long time! My husband picked me up at the SFU Campus and we agreed I have earned myself some small Burger King Fries (the best!) They're the closest thing I can find to taste and texture to New Zealand chips from a fish n chip shop.

Sigh - Happiness

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Unemployment = Lots of chances to get fit!

The thing about being unemployed is that you have a lot of spare time. Don't get me wrong I do spend a sizeable amount of time calling people, editing my resume and sending stuff out, but once all thats done Im still left with eons of spare time. And a few weeks ago I had a bit of an emotional meltdown. To cut it short I was frustrated. I was bored out of my mind and I probably wasn't doing much good by literally spending ALL day at my computer typing. And most of all I felt overwhelmed by the pressure of finding work, because getting work means we can find a house to live in and once we have a house we can move out of our in laws who no undoubtedly have been extremely generous having us live with them but I certainly don't want to over extend our welcome you know? Again I felt the pressure like a huge wage coming over me and all I had at my disposal was a little pathetic row boat. Much like this:

Finally I had had enough I needed to do SOMETHING! But what? My Mum and husband told me to do the things I love which I didn't have much time for when I was working. One of those things was cross stitching. I love love love cross stitching. Its essentially pixel art but with a needle and coloured thread and its relaxing while functional because you're making something with your hands and you get encouraged as you get certain sections completed, much like a giant jigsaw. So anyway, the hubby told me to buy a pattern and get on with it, so I bought the pattern of the picture above. Its a classical Japanese piece of art called 'The Great Wave off Kanagawa' that was done by a fellow called Hokusai and was completed sometime between 1830-33. Its a gorgeous painting and I felt it was very reflective of my life right now. 

The other thing I have always meant to jump into (but working 40 hrs a week for the first time in my life knocked me to the ground physically) was getting back into doing more physical activity, monitoring my diet and hopefully losing some weight. 10 kg to be exact. I currently weigh 84 kg which is about 186 lb I think. Anyway Ive felt overweight for the longest time and have always yo-yo'ed losing and gaining back 5 kg. I never seem to have lost more than 5kg. I'll admit, Ive had some bad eating habits sneak into my life and the thing with gaining weight is that it comes up on you in sneaky subtle ways to begin with. I won't go into detail as to how I got over weight except to say I went from an extremely trim 55 kg athletic high schooler to an 84 kg 26 year old. What happened? College. It became my life and my idol for a solid 3 years, then add another 2 years when it suddenly stopped being my idol to a torturous frustration that I just hoped would just end so I could graduate and move on with my life. Everything else came in last place to my schooling and grades and at the bottom of the trash pile was my physical health. So there you go. I realise now, that back then I had zero comprehension of how to look after my body while it was in constant survival mode. During a certain period I was so poor I could only afford to feed myself once a day, then once I returned home for the summer I just ate and ate and ate whatever I could find and put in my mouth.  Imagine that for 2 years straight. Not healthy.

So as of the 25th February I joined which is a fantastic website that helps you track the nutrition of what you're eating and the exercise that you do. I find the app on my smartphone extremely helpful because I could be out or cooking in the kitchen and I can take a quick picture of a barcode and it will send the product and the serving size I choose to my home page where I track my meals. You can also put in internet recipes or your own recipes and it will calculate the nutrition value of the serving. Essentially it does all the hard calculating for you. This is very helpful as Ive tried calorie counting in the past but it was so arduous. Ive found this website to be helpful in keeping me accountable to what I put in my body, particularly sugar and salt. Boy when you start reading the labels of all you're favorite foods you start thinking Yikes! When you join the website program asks you to state your gender, weight and height and level of current physical activity and how much weight you want to lose. Then it calculates what level of nutrition quotas you should aim for. To lose weight you essentially aim to be under your quota of calories, fat, sodium and sugar and strive for the right level in protein and vitamins etc. To do this well you have to be extremely truthful about what you eat, no cheating allowed! The system is of course cheatable as you can state you ate a piece of lettuce but in reality you ate a whole cake. But YOU know its cheating, YOU know it won't result in lost weight.  Heres a snap shot of what the daily meal counter looks like:

Keeping under your daily nutrition goal is also helped with exercise. Sweating in exercise and eating appropriately before and afterwards helps a long way. Because I grew up hiking a lot and walking trails Ive decided to get back into that. In January I made my New Years Resolution to complete the Grouse Grind which is a very steep 2 hour hike up Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver near where I live. So far Im well on my way to meeting that goal hopefully by late spring or early summer. Ive been 'training' on the foothills behind our house. The foothills are part of the same body of mountains that make up Mt Seymour, Grouse Mountain and Cypress Mountain which in turn become part of the North Shore Mountains.  I think the nearest mountain peak to my house is Eagle Mountain which towers over Buntzen Lake nearby.

So far Ive been hiking up two tracks, the first is a loop up and around Heritage Blvd in Port Moody where I live:

You can see on the picture that it gets quite steep from Jacobs Rd to Eagle Drive. That was a hard hike to get used to at the beginning but now I really enjoy it!
The second trail I take is called the Coquitlam Crunch which I tried out for the first time today. Boy I tell you the first 500 m are tough but after that it is really enjoyable. I accidentally left my headband near the top today and I didn't realised I left it til I was halfway down so I had to hike up again! Luckily I found it again, phew! It was a huge but awesome work out.

The section between the bottom part of Lansdowne Dr and David Ave was the tough bit. After that it was a walk in the park! Literally. Once I got to the top my legs were so used to it I would have loved to have walked further but by then I was really hungry and had to head home for lunch. Next time I'll bring some snacks.

Anyway, thats me for now. If I do more trails I'll add them here. Im trying to explore all sorts of different areas that the Greater Vancouver has to offer. Til next time!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

History TV

Ive been watching some fantastic stuff on tv lately, most have been WWII themed. Now having read a lot up on it Ive noticed that there are some gaps in the historical context of these programs not to mention Im aware that plenty of women got knocked up by Americans in the war but to me it appears that these producers went and took that fact and assumed that ALL women must have been pulling down their knickers in the war. I think this is a gross exaggeration, and speaks loudly that 21st century producers have to inject their over sexualised culture into any context. But hey what do I know I could be wrong on this, it wasn't as if I was actually there. Anyway here are the series:

'X Company': A refreshing Canadian perspective on WWII espionage. My only opinion on this show is, if one discovers a genius with photographic memory why wouldn't Canada send him off to Bletchley Park in the UK where he would have been of more use being a code breaker or something like that instead of sending him off to France to be a spy and having a nervous breakdown at the sound of gun fire? It seems a bit far fetched in my opinion but generally speaking Ive enjoyed the show, esp the female French-Canadian character. 

' Land Girls': A BBC series produced to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the end of the war. Ive rather enjoyed this series which features 4 women in various seasons and backgrounds of life join the Womens Land Army in the UK. In a nutshell, they fill in the farming roles that the men used to have. The only downside is how short this series is. And of course, it being a BBC series I love they they paint all the Americans as manipulative, charming, racist perverts hahaha. So typical of BBC to do that.

'Bomb Girls': Now I haven't watched this series yet but from the looks of it it looks like its about women working in a munitions factory, which I know a lot of women did in the war. I also know they faced a lot of harsh sexism and only got less than half of what the men were earning (although I think that is in part because they theorized men had families to support but then I wonder that the authorities didn't realise the women were most likely doing the exact same thing). And of course it looks like they added in lots of sex and a few good looking Italian men (hmm just like Land Girls, I see a trend here...)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Some updated tidbits from my commings and goings

I recently moved from Kamloops (interior of British Columbia) back to the Greater Vancouver area where my husband's family resides.

I was not happy about this one bit. But without going into details my husband and I both felt we had to. I am now looking for work as an Occupational Therapist. The job hunting has been tiring but so far ok. There are four health authorities between North Vancouver and our border with the US. Providence Health, Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and First Nations Health. Oh and theres also Vancouver Island Health across the water whom Ive posted a few resumes to. Theres also a huge private health industry here in the Vancouver area but personally they all ask for experience in the public health sector  and/or with experience with case management first and I'm still just a baby OT, so I don't quite yet want to stick my foot in that water (though I'd like to have a go in the future). Ive already had two job interviews and am patiently waiting back to hear from my latest one. Ive also got two other places on my radar that Im keeping my eye and ear on. Fingers cross eh?

I'll admit the break is lovely. Ive had a number of sleep in's. Im back to reading multiple books on the go (which I'll note below). Having this break has allowed me time to do some important things I just not have had energy for, namely, getting my full Canadian drivers license and updating my New Zealand passport and getting some leisurely time to do some exercise. The hubby and I have been living with his parents which has been interesting but Im now getting very very desperate to have our own place again. As most may know of me, Im a huge homebody. Most times I feel very cut into two about my identitty: on one hand theres the persevering academic career woman who loves her work, loves study, loves new info, new research, new chances to network and new ways of doing things. Im easily bored if I am not testing my knowledge and practical skill. One of my faveorite programs is 'The Good Wife' and as much as I like the character Alicia Florrick, the woman I love to watch the most is Diane Lockhart played by Christine Baranski (who also incidently plays the hilariously funny but Spock'ish Mom of Leonard on 'The Big Bang Theory'). Then there's the complete opposite: the idealistic housewife traditionalist who loves 1950s living, cross stitching next to the fire while her husband reads the bible out aloud (yes we actually do that). On that side of my life I like to think I very much model after Michelle Dugger except for the 19 kids, ghastly permed hair and that I have a much shorter temper than her.  

Diane Lockhart: Classy,  highly intellectual and passionate with a dash of ruthless
Michelle Dugger: Very Motherly, patient, multi tasker extraordinare
Actually now that I think about it, I think a lot of women may feel like me about this tug of war between two types of women. I think thats why we're all exhausted. And quite frankly I don't think we're capable of being 100% of the two and reaping the rewards of both. And its near impossible to have a perfectly equal 50/50 on this. There have been seasons in my life where Im about 80% Diane, 20% Michelle (namely college). When I first got married it switched. When we moved to Canada and then eventually moved to Kamloops for my first job, thats when it got tough. Practice practice practice I suppose... 

So anyway, we're back in Vancouver and besides job hunting theres already a few things on my mind Im looking into:
  • Learning a new language (deciding between Mandarin or American Sign Language) Both could be extremely helpful in my work.
  • Our next road trip/holiday to Redwood National Park in California (FYI tallest trees in the world!) Hopefully to occur sometime in the Summer.
  • Completing the Grouse Grind this year. But first I have to be able to walk up the hills in Port Moody without passing out..
  • Learning to cook more Chinese/Japanese food. I state this because Im trying to lose weight, I love their flavours and I note Eastern diets are very high in fish and vegetables and they eat their rice out of tiny bowls. Anyone seen an overweight Asian? They're rare and there's a good reason for that.
So anyway, earlier I said I was reading some new books, heres my current list I'm reading
  • 'Lectures to my students' (complete and unabridged) by Charles H. Spurgeon. Spurgeon was a great preacher/pastor of the 1800s and this book is pretty much a volume of transcripts of his enormously long lectures to his seminary students. From reading this guy Ive become a huge fan.
  • 'Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy' by Eric Metaxas. Bonhoeffer was a German Pastor who very bravely stood up to the Nazi regime as a whole and their influence on the Church. Unlike a lot of German's he saw through the subtle lies that the Nazi propaganda machine put out in the early 30s as their foundation for war and genocide and was villanized and eventually murdered on the orders of Hitler himself three weeks before the war was over. An amazing man.
  • 'How to win friends and influence people in the digital age' by Dale Carnegie & Associates. This is a modernized version of his previously well known book of the same name. I started reading this book at the recommendation of a friend of mine to help my job searching/networking goals. The title sounds pithy and lame but the content is excellent and helpful.
  • 'The skinny rules' by Bob Harper. Appalling title for sure. Bob Harper is a personal trainer off the American 'Biggest Loser' series. I don't watch the show as I have a particular distaste of the tv network emphasizing and encouraging the all too familiar scene of reality show back stabbing and gossiping, not to mention I hate that they force the women to parade in sports bra's during the weigh ins. However that said I heard about this guys "rules" I read up on them and they made some logical sense and I appreciate that unlike a lot of others he never enforces one to cut out an entire food group (except junk food). If your curious about what they are heres a link. I think being no carb for dinner has been the hardest for me but Ive been doing it for about a week now and Ive added hill walking to my day so see how we go..
I recently bought some secondhand books in wonderful quality that I plan to read in the future:

I love reading history and as much as I think I know WW2 history back to front reading Bonhoeffer makes me want read it again so I bought this book 'The Second World War' and 'The Victorians' because I want to understand more of the context that Spurgeon was in. Reading the Victorians is a really good lead up because really to understand WW2 you need to understand WW1 and to understand WW1 you have to start with Queen Victoria and the Industrial Revolution. 

Anyway, thats all from me! I'll let you know over time how the new eating and exercise goes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What do make with - Cabbage

Have you ever bought an ingredient for a recipe you don't often make and then you have a ton of it left over and you're thinking, 'ok.. What do I do with this...?' You certainly don't want to let it go to waste (remember that food item you *ehem forgot about at the back of your refrigerator?) Been there done that! Ive recently been challenged when eating my way through the contents of my Summer/Autumn surplus and other items I buy then draw a mind blank on, to find recipes that neither taste or sound repititive.

Cabbage. Now thats a tricky one. I used to hate cabbage - growing up, I often had to eat this 'revolting' vegetable cooked, usually boiled, along with boiled potatoes, boiled silver beet/swiss chard and boiled brussels sprouts (can anyone else say EW). Thankfully I didn't have to eat all those boiled items together. I think it was my family's British food culture that's at fault for ruining this vegetable that I now think is wonderful. Brits seriously don't have a clue except they are pro's at boiling!! Haha jokes. The only time I actually liked cabbage was when it was raw and finely cut up, drowned in mayo and sold in the deli section and then we would traditionally eat it along side our deep fried fish n chips. Best food combo ever FYI. Except now Im not so hot on the mayo drowning. Less is more peeps.

Anyway, so what can you do with a cabbage thats the size of your head and theres only two of you to feed? If you have a family to feed then perhaps this will be easy for you. If you manage to find a half or quarter sized head of cabbage then I suggest go small but wheres the challenge in that? Just so you know when I say cabbage I mean the green kind. So heres five things that I did with mine:

  • Fish n Chips/Corn Dogs and homemade coleslaw
For those Kiwi expats like me who are disgusted with what North American's consider decent fish and chips and have just given up and just resort to eating processed coated fish while fantasizing about a beautiful piece of deep fried hoki. Or also like me you've tried deep frying fish yourself and it turned into a disaster - heres the lazy answer:
Go to your local Walmart or Superstore or whatever chain store you go to, go to your freezer section and find the best quality box of premade English beer battered fish you can find. Follow the instructions on the box. Next, go to your local 7/11 and pick up some corn dogs (or if your such a pro do this home made).  Next, finely slice up some cabbage, carrot, green onion, apple, pepper, add a few sunflower seeds and a light dose of your fav slaw dressing (I like poppyseed or thousand island). This meal is something I do probably like once every two months when I feel a bit homesick. Don't judge me. If you hate the idea of slaw with deep fried food then check out these interesting and healthy alternative coleslaw recipes

  • Perogies with sauteed cabbage, onion and peas with sage/paprika flavored bechamel
My husband LOVES perogies. Its a Mennonite thing that only someone of his gender and ethnic group can get away with eating on a regular basis. I don't mind them on a rare basis as long as theres more vegetables than perogies on my plate otherwise I would gain 5kg over night. If you don't know what a perogy is its pretty much an Eastern European/Russian dumpling filled with potato, cottage cheese, cheese or bacon then served in a butter sauce. I guess those poor peasants had to survive those winters with some kind of body fat to keep them alive while working the fields. Anyway, as we were eating our way through our freezer contents and there was enough for a meal I felt called to suck it up and make it a treat for the hubby and classy it up and add some colour to the meal for myself. I kept it nice and simple: From 1x bag of frozen no name brand bacon & potato perogies, pick out 7 per person (they're filling trust me) and boil til they float to the top of the saucepan then drain under cold water. In a large pan heat a bit of butter and saute an onion, then add the chopped cabbage and peas. Mix in the perogies. In a small sauce pan on med heat, heat a medium sized knob of butter and add 2 Tbsp of flour and whisk quickly. Allow to brown lightly then add a small amount of milk and keep whisking. Keep adding a small slosh of milk and whisk. Keep doing this til you've got enough bechamel to the thickness of your liking (I make mine a bit runny for perogies). Add salt, pepper, paprika and sage. Pour over the perogy and veg and garnish with some sliced green onion. Voila! Make sure you go for a jog the next day or else that meal will stay with you for months..
When I went to Japan at age 16 I fell in love with this meal. Its filling, healthy, unique and very yum. Okonomi pretty much means "What you like" and yaki means "grilled". Its a Japanese pizza (sort of) that they came up with as a way to deal with their leftovers. There are a few varieties but the main kind is owned by Osaka food purists. Its main ingredient is, you guessed it - cabbage. Check out the recipe link.

If you've never made kung pao chicken, *gasp! How could you not? The fact that stir fried cabbage, snow peas and carrots go well with it seems a bit obvious as well..

Another Mennonite/Eastern European classic soup made of beets, tomatoes, cabbage and depending on your recipe version, beef. Either you love it or you hate it. Try it.

Well there you go! Hope you enjoyed this and got some new ideas with what to do with cabbage. Now how to deal with cabbage farts? I'll leave that up to you lol.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Whole Wheat English Muffins!

I have been wanting to make these for such a long time! English muffins are I think are definitely a breakfast food or at least they primarily belong in that group of breakfast foods. Some people are into bagels, others crumpets or pikelets (mini pancakes) and others are just old school and like normal sliced bread in the morning. I love english muffins and whenever I go to Superstore or Walmart I always go to that hideaway little corner of the store (in the bread or dairy section) and theres always a multi tray on wheels with 75% off bread and stuff they have to get rid of by the end of the night to make way for the next mornings fresh breads. So really its only like 12 hours old. Thats still very fresh bread and Im down with hunting these awesome yummy things down. If Im lucky I may even get my hands on some cinnamon and raison bread/bagels or those expensive but tasty loaves of rye bread - score!

Anyway, since finishing some pretty intense (but fun) temp work Ive been in the mood to do some baking and I kept thinking about english muffins. I have two fantastic cookbooks I love to go back to frequently and they are The New Zealand Bead Book by Alison & Simon Holst and The Homemade Pantry: 101 foods you can stop buying and start making by Alana Chernila.


These books are awesome and I can't recommend them enough. If you don't own them, please amend that serious situation, they're worth it trust me. In case your not from NZ, Alison Holst is kind of like our Martha Stewart (but without the snobbery and fraud conviction haha) and she really only sticks to food and not homemaking stuff in general. Her recipes are delicious, homey and are really easy to follow and her other recipe books are fantastic as well. Id go as far to say I like her stuff more than the Edmonds Cookbook (a must have book in every NZ kitchen).

Anyway, with any bread related recipe, take more time out of your day and plan well. For me, getting a recipe wrong really upsets me but what is even worse, is dedicating an entire afternoon to making something and the result looking like a dog's breakfast because I didn't properly prepare or read something. My husband knows when this happens its best to ignore me and hide because a pat on the back and a "there there" just makes me angrier. Control freak yes I know.. Also, if your doing a particularly fiddly recipe that is also new to you, allow for lots of time and patience and make sure your ingredients and tools are set up. Also, the process like allowing the bread to rise will allow you to take a break and have a sit down and drink so don't stress! And do allow for some mistakes. Some ovens don't always match with certain recipes and I had to burn a few muffins here just to figure out what was going on and quickly find an alternative solution which eventually turned out fine. And lastly, try really hard not to compare your end result with a store bought version. Home made versions rarely turn out exactly like store bought versions so just get over it. They have special equipment and machines to make everything look uniformly similar and freakishly perfect. Once you get the hang of doing this sort of thing you'll eventually turn your nose up at a lot of store stuff (like me and pre made pancake mix, blasphemy!!)
I knew I got mine right when I ate a couple of my half burnt ones and the texture was the same to what I know. Judge food first with your mouth not your eyes then once you get practiced then you can worry about how pretty it looks.Below is the recipe. Note, I made a few changes as I wanted to make them using whole wheat flour and I suspect my North American oven is a bit different from NZ fisher and paykel ones so I made a few changes re cooking times and temperatures, but overall its pretty much the same. I also followed the 'By Hand Instructions' and doubled the recipe as I don't own a bread hook machine thing, so follow what best suits you.

For 8 English Muffins
25g butter
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp granulated yeast
2 tsp suagr
2 + 1/2 cups flour (I did 2 cups whole wheat and 1/2 cup of  plain white flour. Never do all whole wheat as it will be far too dense)
1 tsp salt
About 1/4 cup of corn meal

1 large mixing bowl (I used our huge glass fruit bowl)
Spatula (silicone works well)
An apron (unless you want flour on yourself)
Measuring cups
One knife
One small whisk
Dough scraper (very handy, see link so you know what Im talking about)
1-2 cookie/baking trays
Cling film
Cooking spray
Electronic kitchen timer (essential! I bought mine cheaply from Walmart and it works wonderfully)

Bread Machine Instructions
Measure the butter into the  bread machine, pour in the boiling water then leave to stand until the butter has melted before adding the milk, yeast, sugar and flour. Set the machine to to the 'dough' cycle and press 'start'. 

Hand made Instructions
Measure the butter into a large bowl. Pour the boiling water over the butter, then add the the cold milk. Sprinkle in the yeast and sugar and whisk until yeast dissolves. Lease to stand in a warm place for 10 minutes, until the surface bubbles. Add the flour and salt and mix with a knife by continuously cutting into the mixture until it is all combined (good luck using a whisk! haha). Leave to stand in a warm place until that mixture doubles in size (about 30 minutes).

Shaping and Cooking
Preset oven to grill/broil and the temperature to 150 degrees C (300 degrees F). Using the knife stir the mixture back to its original size, then on a well floured work surface (with just enough extra flour to work with it without it sticking). Keeping dough very soft, adding as little flour as possible, cut the dough into 8 equal portions and roll into balls. Roll the balls in cornmeal (to stop them from sticking), then place each one on a cookie tray that is wrapped with cling film and sprayed with a bit of cooking oil. Once all balls are on the tray place in a warm spot again to rise for about 15-20 minutes or until they look a bit puffy. 

In a large oven safe fry pan/skillet, carefully place 4 dough balls top side down (do not oil/grease the pan, trust me), and flatten them a tiny amount with a potato masher so that they are kind of flattish on top. Transfer pan to oven and using a timer (very important must have!), cook for 4 minutes. Then using an oven mit, take the pan out, flip them carefully over and cook for another 4 minutes. You may need to repeat this process as the flipping of sides allows for even cooking. Once they look nicely tan on top, transfer to a plate. And repeat the cooking process with the other remaining balls.

My results
As you can see (on the picture to the right) I made a couple of burnt ones. I also made a couple of undercooked ones. Thats because the recipe told me to do it in a dry fry pan on the oven top with odd cooking times. That process was far too slow quite frankly (Im impatient I know!) So I shoved the pan in the oven and they definitely cooked! ie burnt. So I shortened the cooking times and adjusted a few things (and burnt my hand accidentally) and the ones to the left side of the pan are the result and are in my opinion what they should look like. The ones on the right are unflipped ones.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful to anyone who wants to have a crack at this! My husband happily ate the slightly burnt ones with jam and he still kept asking for more so there you go! Everyone is a winner. 

Eat them with jam and cream cheese or load em up as a sausage & egg or BLT sandwich. Yum!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vegetarian Lasagne

 Recently watched "Diners, Drive in's and Dives" on the Food Network. I love this show! It pretty much has this bloke called Guy road tripping around the US and visiting (as the title says) diners, drive in's and dives. In other words anything that ISN'T a chain restaurant. People email him places with a fantastic reputation of service, food and flavour and uniqueness and he goes and visits them with a camera crew in tow. Of course don't expect the food he shows to be healthy in any way. Some are, some aren't.

Anyway, on the episode I saw, Guy visited a place called Cafe Nonna in  Nashville, TN an Italian place where the chef and/or owner makes food from his grandmas recipes (hence the Nonna part I suppose).
As what usually happens, I was watching the show when they started talking about vegetarian lasagne, and I quickly grabbed a pen and paper to write stuff down. I later found out the food network has the recipe HERE on their website.
As much as I was enjoying their thing my first thought was that their recipe looked too rich and creamy for me, but I liked the vegetable layers very much and decided to try and make a similar but more simpler bechamel version...

2  butternut squash
½ cup butter
½ cup flour
2x  370ml cans evaporated milk (whole not skim)
3x  garlic cloves, thinly sliced 
1  brown onion, diced
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1  Tbsp dried sage
1 tsp paprika  
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 box of dried lasagna sheets
1 bunch of baby spinach, chopped (stems picked off)
1 cup of grated mozzarella

Special equipment: 1 large lasagna pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (150 degrees C).

Cut the butternut squash in half and spoon out the seeds. Place on baking sheet cut-side down. Add some water and bake until a knife slides through the skin and squash easily. Cool and then spoon the flesh from the shell. Mash and set aside for later use.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

In a large sauce pan add 1 tbsp of butter and add the diced onion, mix well and allow to sweat. Frequently stir. After 2 mins add garlic and herbs and paprika. Keep stirring and allow to sweat for another minute before transferring onion mix to a bowl.

Melt the butter in same large saucepan, add the flour and mix with a whisk and allow to brown for 1 minute. Add contents of one can of evaporated milk and whisk the béchamel until all is combined and it begins to thicken. Open the second can and add contents a bit at a time, mixing constantly and allowing to thicken each time until contents are poured in

Spray the sides of the pan with vegetable oil spray. Take 1 cup of the crushed tomatoes and evenly coat bottom of the pan. Line the pan with the sheets of dried pasta overlapping each edge by a centimetre. Spread half of the béchamel equally over the sheets and top with the half of baby spinach.

Add another layer of pasta, then spread the butternut squash over each lasagna.

Then add another layer of pasta on each. Top with the remaining bechamel mixture and remaining chopped baby spinach. Add the last layer of pasta and pour the remaining cup of crushed tomatoes on top.
Finish with the mozzarella.

Bake for one hour.

Take pan out of oven and let it sit for a minute then slice up.

Nb – I precooked my pasta because that’s what I usually do when making my traditional meat based lasagna. As a result the lasagne was quite wet and fell apart easily when I dished it up. On a plus side it was incredibly tasty In this recipe I will presume that it is totally unnecessary to precook the pasta because the cooked squash, béchamel and spinach has so much natural liquid that it should soak through dried pasta sheets and cook it in the process, in that case after the first half hour I would lower the temp a bit lower and cook it and extra 15-20 past the hour. I suppose I should have figured that but now I know.