Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Summer End and Gomasio

Deja Vu?
This meal was inspired by the one my friend Em made for me not long ago.
I haven't made rice paper rolls for a while (isn't it lucky the rice papers don't mind sitting in the pantry for a long time!). It was always a meal for a hot evening when my daughter was still at home. The big tray of salad ingredients and the leisurely rolling and eating is perfect when the weather is so hot and heavy no one has much appetite.
It was hard to make it just for me.. but then Summer gave a last hot day and I was hungry for the eggs and the sesame greens that Em introduced to my rice paper roll repertoire!
So I puddled around and got it ready and then rolled them all up.
And it was great!

It also inspired me to make Gomasio which I haven't made for years and years and years.
Nothing could be easier! Just toast sesame seeds (I made about a cup full) by putting them in a dry frypan and stirring them over the heat until they are lightly coloured and smelling toasty! Then add enough salt so it is perfect to sprinkle on top of things (about one teaspoon full was right for me). Cool completely and keep in an airtight jar. And sprinkle away!
It is especially good on greens, but try it on roast veggies, or as a lovely finishing touch to a salad.

Monday, March 28, 2011


I have been counting back the years to finding my first DWJ book in the children's section of Belgrave public library.
I always searched through the children's section, partly because I was a primary school teacher, and partly because I often found better writing there than in the adults bookshelves.
Do you know, it was more than thirty years ago! That is how old I am!
But how pleased I am that I discovered Diana Wynne Jones back then and so for my whole adult life I have had the pleasure of her writing.
I was stunned by her stories. I hadn't read anything so rich and full of complex ideas and so satisfying. So full of magic and so full of reality.
The first one I read was 'Spellcoats' and the second was The Power of Three. 
The Power of Three remained my favourite until Hexwood. But then, there are so many favourites.

Her writing is like inverted science fiction. Instead of taking the newest ideas from science and extrapolating them forward with stories of people trying to cope in those challenges. She goes back to the old traditions, ancient mythologies and folklore and pops these into the modern world, alternative worlds or future worlds (yes science fiction mixed in!).

Her worlds are so rich and complete and full of wonder and magic. And for years it was her ability to make magic real that I thought was what satisfied me most in her stories. It was the magic in the worlds and the way her characters engaged with it that brought the stories to their satisfying conclusions.

But really it is her families that are the best. She understands how truly awful families can be! Families made of individuals struggling and surviving and interacting according to their character: ineffectual mothers, blundering fathers, narcissistic sisters, ignorant brothers, cruel and selfish or distracted and oblivious. Families that almost work and families cracking to pieces. She does them all with insight and where possible with respect, and generally with great dollops of humour.

In her magical worlds and her complicated families she is writing about power and powerlessness and the jostling of realities. They all work together to make each wonderful book of conflict and resolution.

Here is a picture from Howl's Moving Castle. The movie by Hayao Miyazaki, based on Diana's book. I love the movie, but I love the book more.

I heard yesterday that Diana Wynne Jones had died on the weekend and that is why I have been thinking so much of her.
I have borrowed Hexwood from the library. It has the most complex magic, the most horrible family and the most intricate mix of our traditions of magic (and of science fiction). Every time I read this book I understand it more and respect her vision and talent more. Every time I read it I get lost in the story, the wood, the people, the confusion of time and place ~ and the way it can all come together at the end to blessed reality.

Thankyou Diana Wynne Jones.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Roasted Ratatouille and a Green Visitor

Here is a lovely meal to share with you! It is a healthy made-from-scratch meal, but also full of cheaty bits.
One day I am going to make couscous properly, rolled in a little oil and steamed lovingly over a pot of simmering stew.
But for now, I take the 'smallest pasta in the world / fast food' view of couscous.

I bring one cup of water to the boil in a small saucepan with a pinch of salt and about a teaspoon of olive oil. I turn off the heat and tip in one cup of couscous. On goes the lid and I leave it two minutes. Then I scrape a tablespoon of butter onto the end of a fork and start tickling, combing, it into the couscous until the butter is melted in and the couscous is fluffed up with each grain separate. Then I put a folded tea towel over the saucepan and the lid on top, and let it sit for a few minutes fluffing itself further. 

All done quicker than it took to write this!

And the roasted ratatouille is easy too, but hush! don't tell the rat in the movie! This recipe came from 'Moosewood Simple Suppers' and it is so easy, yet the flavours are true to the traditional pot version. I love it.

Turn the oven to high and put in a big roasting tray to heat up.
Cut 1 zucchini, 3 onions, 1 eggplant, 2 tomatoes and 2 bell peppers into 1 inch chunks and put in a big bowl.
Add 6 cloves of peeled garlic, whole or as chopped as you like.
Sprinkle 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp pepper over the veggies and then add 1/3 cup of oil, and give it all a mix.
(I added some springs of rosemary too).
Then get the roasting pan out of the own (without burning your hands) and tip the veggies in.
Pop it in the oven and let it roast for 15minuets. Give it a stir and then roast for 20 minutes. Another stir and it will only need 5 or 10 minutes more. The veggies should be juicy and fork tender, and the flavours intense.
Serve with some fresh basil leaves.

I added a salad which was less elegant but perfectly delicious. Mmm and there are left overs that are SO easy to warm up!

Here is my green visitor. Sorry she  (or he?) is so blurry. In real life she was neat as a pin, waiting at my back door. Well... tucked neatly in to my back door!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sugar Content Lists

Realising sugar was making me feel very sick I have cut it out of my diet for a while. I began 4 months ago, and during that time I have been to the doctor and confirmed I don't have any signs of diabetes or pancreatic disease, also that my diet has been healthy and fits well within a Low Glycemic Index. I also don't have signs of fructose/lactose etc intolerance. But cutting out high sugar foods, and then cutting out fruit, definitely improved my health. Very interesting!
I have now decided to eat as strictly sugar free as I can for a couple of months and take probiotics at the same time and then reintroduce some fruit and see what happens. I could figure out high sugar foods, but what about medium and low?
So I checked around to find what the actual sugar content of fruits and vegetables are (the simple sugars: monosacharrides and disaccharides) and I thought I would share what I have found, even though there are still some contradictions and things I would like to know that are missing (like how much sweeter are cooked onions that raw ones?).

I am sharing this not because I think anyone else needs to do what I am doing but because everyone I spoke to had the same confusion as I did about the relative amounts of sugar in foods. and were interested to know what I discovered.

The two most helpful sites were this one
that has taken data from the United States Department of Agriculture and arranged it into order of sugar content  (instead of alphabetical order). Most of the list is processed foods I have never heard of and would never eat, so I copied down the fruits and veggies and a few other things that interested me.
(I ended up approximating some things, and changing them to their Australian terms etc, so please go to the original for accuracy.)

Grams of sugar per 100g

100g - 37.5g Very High Sugar

Sugar, honey, dates, maple syrup, raisins, dried apples, dried apricots, dried figs, dried tomatoes

37.4g - 18.6g

Rhubarb cooked with sugar, hoisin sauce, prunes, plums

18.6g – 10.5g   Medium Sugar

Grapes, mangoes, canned apple pie filling, cherries, bananas, croissants(!), apple juice, canned apricots, tangerines, milo drink

10.4g – 6.6g

Canned tomatoes, apples, plums, oranges, apricots, grapefruit juice, baked sweet potato, orange juice, peaches, beets, nectarines, melons, pistachios, sweet wine(!), yoghurt, grapefruit, nashis, eclair with custard filling and chocolate icing (!)

6.5g – 4.1g Low Sugar

Coconut meat, watermelon, miso, bread, paw paw, boiled sweet potato, canned beets(!), milk, cashews, potato chips, parsnips, strawberries, peanuts, peas, yoghurt, carrots, onions, blackeyed beans, raspberries, canned tomatoes, red peppers, macadamias,

4.1g – 2.6g

Feta, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, white corn,  pecans, tomatillo, cabbage, cornchips, pine nuts, yellow corn, green peppers, eggplant, soybeans, turnips,

2.6g – 0g
Fresh tomatoes, walnuts, buckwheat flour, zucchini, lemon, avocadoes, onions, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, radishes, scones, brussel sprouts, chives, cottage cheese, mushrooms, broccoli, potatoes, cauliflower, cucumber, lima beans, swiss cheese, asparagus, pita bread, beans, lettuce, eggs, pumpkin, garlic, unsweetened chocolate for baking(!), tofu, seaweed, mozzarella, beet greens, cheddar, oats, chicken, coffee, cornstarch, fish, ham, butter, oil, rice, salt, tea.

The second was a pdf file for Pediatric Diabetes Guidelines for a completely sugar free diet.

Pediatric Diabetes

Avocado, Rhubarb
all other fruits

Celery, globe artichokes, mushrooms, spinach, watercress, legumes, potatoes, eggplant, asparagus, bean sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, zucchini, cucumber, fennel, leeks, lettuce, pumpkin, radish, spring greens, swede, turnip, seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin)

Beetroot, brussels sprouts, carrots, green beans, okra, onion, parsnip, peppers, squash, sweet corn, sweet potato, tomato.

Inspite of some contradictions I have a good idea now of what I will base my diet around ie the foods allowed on the Pediatric Diabetes diet, with some supplementation from the lowest reaches of the other list!

A note about raw and cooked veggies! Generally baking veggies intensifies the sweetness and so the veggies end up with more sugar percentage, while boiling veggies means some sugar is lost into the water and so the vegetable ends up with a smaller amount of sugar. However, the differences are small!
I included some baked pumpkin, carrot and red capsicum as part of the meal pictured! That was before I had this list, but I don't plan to cut those beautiful coloured veggies out of my diet altogether, even for a couple of months!

Do let me know if you found the lists interesting!

PS As far as I can work out, this is completely separate to my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

French Savoury Cakes

I wrote about cutting sugar out of my diet in my last post. I'm still at it!
First I cut out all the obvious things like dried fruit and biscuits and cakes.
O Therese, honey and maple syrup are out too! (And as for wine ~ Boo hoo, I have been pretty alcohol intolerant for several years!)

I got a book out of the library about the Glycaemic Index. It told me that my diet was already Low Glycaemic (I'm a healthy wholemeal vegetarian from way back!).

The real hardship came when I cut out fresh fruit and realised that made me feel even better.
That has sent me on a hunt to work out how sweet some vegetables are. It has been quite a research challenge! I will do a post about it next because I think a lot of people will find the information interesting.

I have decided to be as sugar free as I can be for a couple of months, and maybe find some good probiotics too. Then I will add back a bit of fruit and see how I go.

(Note: My doctor has ruled out diabetes and pancreatic problems.)

So this brings me to the recipe I would like to share today.
French Savoury Cake is great with soup or stews, and I am enjoying it as a 'little something' to have with my cuppa! I have made it successfully in a loaf tin,  in a tray, and this time I tried savoury cupcakes using my muffin tray and that worked perfectly too!

I will give you my basic recipe (originally from Kye at the Jamie Oliver forum).

150g SR flour (scant 1 ¼ cups) with salt and pepper sifted in large bowl
100 ml oil or melted butter
125 ml milk
3 eggs
Liquids in 2 cup jug, whisk then fold into flour
Fold in additions corn/olives/cheese/capsicum/sorrel/herbs etc

In oiled, lined white loaf pan
210C oven for 10 minutes then 180C 30 minutes

This time I added some finely shredded sorrel, finely chopped green olives, red capsicum, and crumbled feta. And they took about 25 minutes to cook.

Other times I have added corn kernels, chives, a variety of herbs. I have also used part cornmeal in the flour.
It is such an easy delicious mix I am glad to share it.

Cheers everyone

Friday, March 11, 2011

Rice Paper Rolls and Yes but!

I had lovely visitors last week in among a set of vaguely disappointing appointments. Thank heavens for Em and Simone!

The vaguely disappointing appointments included
The hairdressers: a very expert style, but not me! Simone I need that recommendation!
The doctors: very good that I haven't got diabetes or any signs of panceatic problems but nothing useful to understand why sugar is making me so sick.
The ex Federal bureaucrat upstairs: good feedback on my YamDaisy project but it just highlighted that with my ill health I am not really well enough to take it much further.

I know my cheery optimism will pop up soon and I will chase up Simone's hairdresser, rejoice at how much better I feel with sugar out of my diet, and focus on the lovely work I will do to my YamDaisy website.

In the meantime I am so glad for a lovely afternoon with gorgeous people. Em brought food for a whole feast that she laid out on the table.
Fresh greens, egg, vermicelli noodles, cucumber, dressed/pickled zucchini, the amazing greens and sesame mixture and a kick arse dipping sauce. All rolled up into a ricepaper package. Scrumptious.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Joy and her camera and...

I have a new camera! So small and light and it can do so much! These photoes are from my first experiment with it!
Above is the beautiful bark from a tree near my house. And below is a dahlia from a garden near mine.
I just walked out and began playing!

Oh, and yes... I am still working on my presentation!
I am very grateful for the supportive comments from you! Thanks!
I got sidelined by the dentist (again) and a visitor, but my useful contact (!) is back from holidays and I am hoping to get a federal government bureaucrat (retired) view of my project from him this week.! I will let you know how it goes!