Tag Archives: food

Avoid the Sugar Hangover! Gluten Free Peanut Butter, Cacao Nib, and Coconut Cookies

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Photography by Kim Mennen and Jake Lowe, Styling by Ali Nardi
Notice: WordPress is having a mini meltdown and currently won’t recognize spaces between paragraphs. Sorry for the big block of text.
Last night I had my ladies over. We used to get together to exercise, but now, we mainly get together to eat and drink wine, which suits us all just fine…
I made a wholesome and really flavorsome classic for them: a lemon and rosemary roast chicken with roast spuds, sweet potatoes, garlic, and kale (I will try to post that recipe soon). My friend Alice is off the sugar Sarah Wilson style, and inspired by Alice, I haven’t been eating much processed sugar either. It’s usually just a bit of fruit everyday and that’s been the deal. I feel pretty good, and I considered this fact while deciding what to make them all for dinner.
We were all full and satisfied, but then my friend Amelia went into the kitchen, and returned with a box of gorgeous Greek pastries. So gorgeous, that even Alice crumbled. What was meant to be just a bite of each turned into a bit of a feeding frenzy, but lady style, so it didn’t actually look like a frenzy…. and before you knew it, there were only a few measly scraps left–which I ate for breakfast this morning to try and cure the terrible sugar hangover I awoke to this morning.
Sugar. It’s super addictive. I consider myself very lucky that I’ve never really had a sweet tooth, but a few months ago, I slipped into dangerously high sugar-eating territory, and it was a major effort to scale it back. I was addicted for a bit, and I don’t want to go back to that place. I always felt tired, bloated, and desperate for something sweet. It truly made me feel hungover in the morning, without the benefit of actually being drunk the night before..
That being said, I never planned and still don’t plan to quit sugar completely, and by sugar, I mean fructose. I don’t like extreme dieting. I love almost all foods, and to cut out sugar completely would be cutting out a lot more than just the sweetness. It would be cutting out experiences, not to mention always being the difficult one at the dinner table– or any table for that matter.
The problem was just that I was having sugar way too often–like with every meal, and that didn’t feel so hot…
I read Sarah Wilson’s e-book, I Quit Sugar, and there were some strong points in there, and it definitely helped me cut down big time. But that point that stood out to me the most is that she drinks a cup of warm milk while sniffing incense when she wants a treat– and that sounds fairly dreadful to me.
I like to enjoy a hard cider or two on occassion when I’m out with my friends. I clearly enjoy Greek pastries once in a while. I like making birthday cakes for me friends, and enjoying them with them. And I’m certainly not going to miss out on eating a gelato here and there throughout the summer.
So sugar is in, but only when it is really worth it. I stay away from it unless I am eating a proper dessert that accompanies an occasion. The Greek pastry event was a bit over the top, but again, experiences! It wouldn’t be as much fun to share a stick of celery around the table. But that’s one night. And the rest of the week will have to be pretty clean (with the exception of Thanksgiving, which is  free-for-all in my book.
Maybe I should have mentioned at the top that this is not a post that is trying to keep you off the sweets over the holidays. I have no place telling you what you should or shouldn’t eat. I’m just letting you know what I enjoy. Really, what I am trying to say is: I think it is ok to eat bad stuff, as long as it’s usually and mostly eating good stuff. (And Thanksgiving is only once a year…)

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peanutbutter cookies

One way I manage to do this is by keeping treats that are low in sugar and packed with protein and good fats in the house, like Tahini Date Refrigerator Snacks.  This week, I’m talking about Peanut Butter Cookies– really good ones, with mostly good stuff in them apart from 1/8 cup honey. They are gluten free, and have some delicious optional extras in them. They are based on a recipe from Elana’s Pantry–she does great desserts– but I’ve cut the sugar in half, made a few other changes, and added some extras to keep you full for longer and add some more interesting flavor.

Enjoy!

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Gluten Free Peanut Butter, Cacao Nib, and Coconut Cookies
Makes about 12 cookies
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tblsn cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded or dessicated coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine almond meal, salt, baking soda, and shredded coconut in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat peanut butter, honey, butter and vanilla extract, until light and fluffy.
  4. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients, and beat until well combined. Stir in cacao nibs and chopped peanuts.
  5. Scoop dough 1 tablespoon at a time onto lined baking sheet and press down with a fork.
  6. Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Melbourne is Immune to Global Warming: Sesame Zoodles

Photography by Kim Mennen Styling by Ali Nardi

Photography by Kim Mennen, Styling by Ali Nardi

It’s obvious at this point that Melbourne doesn’t feel like giving its people a break. We love you Melbourne, but you don’t seem to love us back. It’s spring, and you are still throwing weather tantrums. It’s immature, and inconsiderate and I expect it to stop. Everyone is cranky and depressed, and I’m hitting that point too. Luckily, because we aren’t in NYC, no one is calling it, “weather prone depression,” but really we all have a touch of it. So cut it out. It’s just plain rude.

I’ve gone ahead and made something springy anyway. I’m sick of slow cooking, and roasts. I don’t want to play with my oven tonight. I want to embrace the fresh veg of spring– gosh, I don’t even know what spring means anymore. What-eh-ver.

I was skeptical about zucchini noodles–a.k.a.”zoodles”– for a long time. While on a somewhat Paleo stint I scoffed at the idea. I LOVE pasta. It is hands down one of my favorite foods ever. I wasn’t about to disgrace pasta by trying to recreate it with a zucchini. I was just going to have it once as a while, not as a a small treat, because I’m incapable of eating small portions of pasta. (I allow myself an occasional pasta binge.)

Then someone I knew got hold of a “zoodler” and I became a believer. This little gadget is simple, but efficient, and the zucchini comes out in a very satisfying spaghetti cut. It isn’t spaghetti, but it isn’t so far off, and you could just think of it as a totally different food that happens to go well with pasta/noodle sauces. I’m pretty into them, and have to make them often to justify spending nearly $40 on a piece of plastic.  I keep them raw when using them so the flavor is more neutral. If you sautee them, you will end up with a stronger zucchini flavor, but that will work for some dishes. It all depends on personal taste.

So here it is: Sesame Zoodles. This recipe, adapted from Zygot Bookworks & Cafe originally published in Bon Appetit Magazine,  is a veggie-packed, no-cook recipe that absolutely reeks of spring. It’s misses a lot of sore spots as it’s dairy free, free from processed sugars (you’ll need to purchase “no-sugar added”/ all natural peanut butter if you are avoiding sugar), gluten free, vegan and raw, but still tastes really good… Take that Melbourne!

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I’ve been making this for years using udon noodles, and now I use zoodles with it. You can really add whatever veggies you like. With the sauce, some people prefer it more peanut buttery or thicker/thinner so feel free to play around with the soy sauce, vinegar and stock, but these ratios are what I like.

If we pretend it’s warm, maybe it will actually become warm…

Sesame Zoodles (adapted from Zygot Bookworks & Cafe)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tblspn balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cloves garlic (or more), finely chopped
  • finely chopped red chilli to taste (optional)
  • 3 spring onions/scallions thinly sliced plus extra for garnish
  • 2 cups shredded nappa cabage
  • 1 head bok choy, well rinsed and thinly sliced
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • melted coconut oil or oil of choice to coat zoodles
  • 2 tblspn sesame seeds plus extra for garnish
  • about 3/4 zucchini per person to be made into zoodles–this recipe makes enough for 3 or 4 people.

1. To make the sauce, combine the first 5 ingredients, as well as the chilli if using. Make your zoodles and coat with a little bit of oil in  a large bowl. Add remaining vegetables and coat with sauce. Add sesame seeds. Garnish with extra sesame seeds and spring onions

Start the Week Right: Tahini Date Refrigerator Snacks

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Photography by Kim Mennen, Styling by Ali Nardi

Clearly these are balls, but I’m too immature to use the word balls in the title for one of my posts…

I have been eating terribly lately! Lack of time means less making food at home, which means more eating out, which means eating a lot more junk, which means–you get the point. If I don’t take some time to make some healthy snacks to have in the house, and keep my fridge and pantry stocked with good stuff, as opposed to loading the freezer up with pizzas (it’s been known to happen), a vicious cycles begins. And I don’t think I’m alone…

I become addicted to the bad stuff, and lose interest in the better tasting homemade stuff, that also happens to be so much healthier, and make me feel so much better physically and mentally. I become sluggish, achy, and kind of cranky.

But then it becomes a bit too “icky” and I wake up one morning ready to start getting it right again. Today was a Monday, which I think is a great excuse for a fresh start. I ate good things all day, and then Anders gave me and my workout buddy a free personal training session (along with an elderly Chinese woman named Lily who came over to practice her English and then slipped her way into our training session). No, I am not a health nut who lives my daily life that way, but I try. Often, a workout just means I can then go have a greasy cheese burger after so I break even if you know what I mean, but I’m trying to get better at seeing the habbits in my life through for longer–not giving up burgers, or icecream–just having them less frequently. And I know having good snacks in the house helps me with this effort.

Anyway, the benders don’t really bother me that much, as long as I know I can squeeze my way back out of them, and button my pants again without it being too much of a struggle. The lack of time to make healthy food though is really still an issue at this juncture in my life, so finding some good, healthy, tasty snacks that aren’t too time consuming and don’t require me to turn on an oven can be tricky.

So thank goodness for Mona Hecke, author of The Lunchbox Revolution, and a former colleague who passed her “Protein Blast Balls” recipe onto me.  A kid’s lunchbox really is a great inspiration, as the point is healthy stuff without it tasting dull. I admit, I haven’t purchased her book and given it a good look, but based on how much I love this recipe, and the great feedback I received when I made them, I reckon it’s probably worth investing in.

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There is no cooking, chopping, shredding, or even rinsing. You just need your ingredients, a measuring cup, and a food processor, and your ready to go. The whole process from start to finish is a quick 10-15 minutes, depending on how obsessive you are with getting those balls to look perfect. Your could also go with log shapes, or even squares. The choice is yours…. They last in a container in the fridge for ages, and you really only need one when you are after a pick me up. They are gluten free and dairy free. These are dense and delicious. The recipe calls for protein powder, which I realize isn’t something everyone has lying around. I only have access to it because Anders dabbles with the stuff… It ups the protein content of course, but it’s not gonna hurt anyone if you take it out.

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Of course, I have made a few changes, apart from just changing the name…

  • I’ve taken out the agave, which I, and my fellow tasters, feel is unnecessary. The dates are definitely sweet enough on there own, and I don’t prepare food with agave. If you feel the need for extra sweetness, I recommend using honey instead, or adding a pinch of stevia.
  • Instead of almond meal, I’ve gone with LSA, which adds a bit more nutritional complexity.
  • I replaced goji berries with dried cranberries, because I prefer the taste, but also because they are a a bit out of my budget at the moment, and the budget for the rest of my life…  Also, someone I know will be eating these is allergic to them.
  • And finally, instead of just coating them in coconut, I recommend coating some in cacao powder.

Seriously good snacking grub…

Tahini Date Refrigerator Snacks

Adapted from The Lunchbox Revolution

Ingredients (Makes about 20 balls):

  • 1 cup LSA
  • 2 tbsp protein powder (optional/ vanilla protein works best for this recipe)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup shredded or dessicated coconut, plus extra to coat
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 10 medjool dates, pitted
  • Tahini to bind–I used roughly 1/3 cup
  • cacao powder to coat (optional)

Place everything into a food processor and blend until well ground and combined. Add tahini by the tablespoon until ingredients bind together. Shape into balls and roll in dessicated coconut or cacao. Store in fridge in an airtight container.

Mom’s Artichokes, Flannel and Boomboxes

Artichokes 2 AsiaPhotography by Asia Upward, Styling by Ali Nardi

First, a shout out to my buddy Asia Upward, who is so much fun to work with (plus I love her dog, Bear). She really knows how to photograph food and she has done some really lovely work for this blog. To see more of her work check out her website: Porkchop Photography

Whilst wandering through the Victoria Markets last week pretending I wouldn’t make my way to the borek stand and have my customary cheese and spinach borek straight from the oven (and straight from the hands of the borek nazi lady herself, who still doesn’t recognize me after the countless borkes I have purchased–it adds to the experience) I noticed that there were quite a few artichokes about the place, and I got excited and a bit nostalgic.

I love artichokes, and I really enjoyed eating them when I was a kid and my mom used to make them. They are in season in Victoria, and naturally that meant I would be eating them soon. By that, I mean I naturally expected them to be prepared for me soon–by my mom. And then it hit me. I have never cooked an artichoke! Okay, there might have been that one time in Italy after the artichoke fair in Rome, but did I actually prepare the bundle of chokes we brought back, or did I just sip 3 euro wine and sit on the windowsill watching my friend prepare them before eating them?

In any case, it was due time, cause mom is all the way back in Brooklyn and who else is going to make me artichokes? I wanted to make them the same way she always did when we were kids: simple, delicious–when you pull the leaves off and tear off the meaty bottoms with your teeth, then scoop the choke from the heart and eat the heart and a bit of the stem. So I called her, and she gave me the rundown, which I have passed on here.

After Asia Upward photographed the artichokes, we ate them, and Asia had a rush of nostalgia, cause sure enough, her mom used to make them the same way. And that’s when we realized artichokes are totally a 90’s thing. Perhaps they aren’t instantly recognizable as 90’s trend– the boombox, flannel, Pearl Jam–but that’s the decade they brought us back to.

So go grab some Artichokes at the market and and enjoy a blast to the past, and maybe plan to watch an episode of My So Called Life after dinner. I would portion two artichokes per person as part of a bigger meal. I served it up with a simple spaghetti with a bit of chilli flakes, parsley, and parmesan, and some bread to soak up the garlicky artichoke oil.

Artichokes 3 Asia

Mom’s Artichokes

Ingredients:

  • Artichokes (or two per person)
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic per artichoke, sliced not too thinly
  • salt and pepper to tast
  • olive oil
  • water

Remove the really tough leaves from the artichokes and using a knife, peel the tough skin off of the heart and stem (leave about 2 inches of stem). Gently pull back petals a bit and push garlic slices down in the crevices. Place artichokes in large deepish pan in a single layer. Add equal portions of olive oil and water to the pan until you have about 3/4 an inch of liquid. Place a lid on the pan and bring the liquid to a gentle simmer (if the lid isn’t super snug or has a small airhole, seal the top with a layer of foil and then place the lid on). Allow to simmer for an 1 1/2 to two hours depending on how tough your artichokes are, turning occasionally (be gentle so the leaves don’t fall off). You should able to pierce the heart (right above where the stem meets the choke easily).

Your chokes are done and ready to eat! Just peel the petals off and pull of the tender bit of the pettle off with your teeth. Discard the rest of the pettle (it’s nice to have an extra bowl on the table for discarded leaves). When you get down the the spikey choke, scoop it from the heart, and enjoy the heart and the upper bit of the stem.

Unemployed? Have a Cookie

cookies 4Photography by Asia Upward, Styling by Ali Nardi

My housemate really likes ice cream. We have a freezer full of it. Sure, it’s his ice cream, but it’s right there, and it’s not just one brand and one flavor. It’s a whole selection. Damn you Tom!

I repeat, it’s his ice cream. But like I said, there was so much of it, and right there! I cracked the other night and stole far more than a modest scoop. Then I felt like the horrible housemate who steals food, and excessively apologized the next morning. I started with, “I did something bad,” which is up there with “Can we talk,” as a phrase that fuels anxiety. It was a poor sentence to start with. I could see the color drain from his face and feel those unpleasant butterflies fluttering around in his ice cream coated belly. He was thoroughly relieved when he realized I was just talking about ice cream.

I’m unemployed. It’s a state of being that I personally find really challenging, especially after leaving a perfectly good job. But, I simply had to move to Melbourne, and I don’t regret that. And starting over is kind of habit of mine, except for the past almost three years, instead of flying solo I’ve got a start over buddy whose beard looks like haven for birds at the moment (it suits Melbourne though).

There is of course the honeymoon period, where everything is new and exciting, and honestly, my interest in Melbourne hasn’t worn off in the slightest, and I am genuinely thrilled to be here. There is just the fact that I will eventually need an income if I want to stay, and I definitely want to stay.

So now just simply isn’t the time to go cold turkey on sweets, or I could end up dipping into something much worse as the psychological effects of starting over yet again and being unemployed slowly but steadily chip away at my self-esteem.

I know, it’s not to the most interesting or dramatic vice, but god forbid I revert back to my smoking days. I lost track of how many times I had to quit to truly kick my addiction to those delicious cancer sticks, and for the past few years it has been breezy. I have maybe two a year just for the nostalgia factor, and the next day I feel hung over and shitty.  I couldn’t go back if I tried. My body won’t let me, not to mention Anders would hound me the same way I hound him about eating bacon EVERYDAY. And I am grateful for that (not the bacon part, just the rest).

Yeah, being unemployed can suck, and that’s nothing new. Depending on where you are in your life and what your goals are, it can be a good experience too, if you can motivate to go do some cool things with your new-found free-time that don’t cost anything. Currently I am working on building defensive forces against the negatives of unemployment by constantly distracting myself with projects.

But the negativity still managed to slip in. In fact, I feel like I cause a lot of my own grief over not having a job.

choc chip cookies 2 asia

For example: I feel rejected even when I’m not applying for jobs! This is the most ridiculous contradiction I experience. Even if I am actively NOT looking for a job, I still feel like no one wants to hire me. What? That one just makes me angry at myself, and it is probably annoying to read. You might be thinking I need a good slap and a shake. I don’t blame you.

Another thing: Being unemployed is an excellent conversation killer, but I could easily eradicate this problem by simply lying. When people ask you, “What do you do?” meaning “what do you do for a living?” and not what do you do in your spare time for fun (unless you are in San Francisco, where it actually means, “what do you do that makes you happy”), they often get uncomfortable when you can’t provide them with an answer. If you are speaking to a gainfully employed individual, chances are you are making them feel like unemployment is contagious, and they must exit the conversation post-haste to save their own pay check. So instead of saying, “Oh, I’m currently looking for a job….” or “Yeah, things are a bit slow right now….” I could be saying I teach Norwegian lions how to speak Spanish, or even better, I could say I am an Internal Project Manager Analayst Engineering Consultant. I guarantee no one will actually ask me details about that one.

Choc chip cookies

To cope with the “U” word, and that fact that I am back to having one friend within over 500 miles (shit that’s far, and true!–Anders alone has to act as my BFF, boyfriend, personal butler, and therapist all at once) , and so I don’t attempt to overcome the challenge of un-quitting smoking,  I indulge in sweets and watch The Biggest Loser in moments when I feel like throwing in the towel. Those are the bits I am willing to share with you at least. But I like to think I am being clever about it. I’ve been steadily baking sweets that aren’t going to harm me too much, and might actually help me on both the nutritional and psychological front. And ultimately, they prevent me from pilfering Tom’s ice cream.

choc chip cookies 3 asia

I do this by cutting out the flour (my usual MO) and adding some extra nutritional bits in there. There is a flourless chocolate chip cookie recipe from The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods by Sara Forte with lovely photos by Hugh Forte that I  keep coming back to. (They also have a blog by the same name with loads of recipes.) It uses almond flour and is so easy and delicious, and it ain’t that bad for me (so I let myself have way to many which bring me back to square one). It is without a doubt my favorite flourless recipe so far, and one of my favorite recipes in general. I have adapted it just slightly by adding espresso and chia seeds for flavor and texture and to keep my energy levels up.

Chocolate Chip Chia Espresso Cookies

Adapted from: The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods

Yields 22 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups almond meal
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ tsp espresso powder
  • ¼ cup chopped dark chocolate
  • ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tblspn chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter or coconut oil (or oil of choice), melted
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat over to 375 F/ 190 C
  2. Mix first 7 ingredients in a bowl as well as chia seeds if using.
  3. Beat egg until doubled in volume and foamy. Whisk in butter and vanilla (make sure butter has cooled so it doesn’t cook the egg!)
  4. Mix wet ingredients into dry and allow to stand for 10 minutes
  5. Wet hands, and roll dough into balls the size of a large marble (about 1 tblspn dough per cookie). Place dough onto ungreased baking tray and flatten dough balls with palm.  Bake for 7- 10 mins. (Almond meal tends to brown fairly quickly, so it’s best to make these small so you don’t end up with a burnt outside and undercooked inside)

The Celebrity Chef Season of The Bachelor: Who Will Win My Cabbage?

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I spend a fair amount of time these days worrying about whether or not I need to freeze my eggs to give me more time decide if I want children. That biological clock that is supposed to be making me baby crazy…well, that clock seems to be broken in my case and at the ripe age of 27, I feel the pressure. I regularly negotiate with myself about when I need to make this decision by. When I was 23 it was 28. When I was 26, I bumped it to 30. Now that I am 27, I’ve tacked a few extra years onto that, bringing my decision deadline to 33, and frankly, that seems waaaay too soon to  figure it out. So the freezing thing doesn’t sound like too bad of an option. Of course, I’ve given myself a generous few years to figure out if I want to freeze the eggs, and at that point, the purpose of that might be lost over time. Essentially, I cannot think about the concept of babies, without totally freaking out, and needing to move onto a different course of thought fairly quickly.

Anyway, before I think about these babies, maybe I should be considering what kind of partner I would like to raise a baby with. Not to say you must have a partner, but in my case it is definitely a must, as I plan to be the 30-percenter while my partner is the 70-percenter…possibly the 80-percenter when the weather isn’t good.

So as you can see, I have clearly put a lot of thought into this and honed in on the most important factors involved in having a child….

My spousal search shall start where it should: Celebrity Chefs

For the sake of not discriminating, I have included chefs that are popular in the US, and some that the Aussies dig too (I’ve also tried unsuccessfuly to draw them, because all the images of them are copy written, and for that I apologize). I’ve tried to include some non-red heads here which is tough. Have you ever noticed the frequency of carrot tops in the celebrity culinary circuit? I’ve narrowed it down to five contenders, and chosen a diverse batch (I attempted to draw and write about Mario Batalli as a sixth option, but just felt really shallow and bitchy doing that).

Yotam Ottolenghi

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He’s tall, dashing, and his food is incredible. Simple, fresh whole foods with lots of color and care. If I wasn’t cheap and waiting for his book Jerusalem to go on sale, I would be working steadily through every one of his recipes.

I can see myself coming home to a freshly made salad and his beautiful fig and goat’s cheese tart while he changes nappies and teaches the baby Hebrew.

But alas, Ottolenghi prefers bananas to figs if you catch my drift, so I simply don’t stand a chance.

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Heston Blumenthal

It’s not that I mind a guy without hair on his head, I just don’t really like my food being messed with so much. He has his scientific passion for food, and I respect that, but I don’t want my kitchen to turn into a science lab.

I would be afraid to let him change nappies, and isn’t nappy changer the whole point of having a partner? He might do odd culinary experiments with the baby poo– Poo mousse tart with a urine caramel glaze perhaps? I shudder to think of the possibilities.

Sorry Heston, but this catch just isn’t taking the bait.

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Jamie Oliver

Does he need an introduction? He is simply brilliant, and I love his book Jamie Does: Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morocco, Greece, France. Yeah, he does a lot of things.  This particular cookbook is a bit excessive on the vanity pics but it’s Jamie we’re talking about here. Plus Anders (my current partner who is facing stiff competition with these celebrities) likes to cook Jamie stuff for me and it is always great.

But I’ve seen his wife, and as gorgeous as she is, she looks a bit worn down by the massive personality that is Jamie Oliver. He also demonstrated  on national TV how the baby stopped crying every time he took it from his wife, and then started crying again when he handed it back. Yes, it is a sign that he has a way with kids, but as someone who is planning to be a 30-percenter, I must have the appearance of a 100-percenter, and that just wouldn’t work for my reputation. But thanks for your Swedish Caesar salad recipe, we can’t get enough of those chicken fat croutons. I love you, but I just can’t love you in that way.

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Marco Pierre White

He is one scary chef. His intensity and knife skills are to be admired, but they are also to be feared, as these are also characteristics of a killer. I can imagine serving him something just mildly over-salted, and the outcome being death, or preferably, divorce.

Nah, but he has got a soft side to him, and I think he is probably a family man at heart. However, like all of the contenders, the big issue is really that I would have to be the 80-percenter, or even worse the 100-percenter, because career ambition like this doesn’t leave much room for family time.

Sorry Marco, I know you are”looking forward to spending some time” with me, but I don’t always cut my veggies uniformly, and I hate to julienne carrots so I don’t think it will work.

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Bobby Flay

Hi Bobby, how’s it going? You want to prove you can bake better banana bread then me? This throw down is on!!

I love a bit of competition, and Bobby is definitely up for it. Of course, when he beat those two little old ladies in a fruit pie Throw Down, the world felt cruel. But I must say, there is something about the Flay, and out of all the contenders, he might actually stand a chance. He knows an incredible amount about so many different foods, and his recipes always work. He just seems like he has it together, and he can juggle a million things at once, including bottle feeding a baby while bringing in the dough and flirting with Giada De Laurentiis (cut that out! Sorry Giada, I’m just jealous).

Plus, he has got a tough New Yorker feel to him that appeals. Bobby, if you want to go out sometime, just catch me on my blog. Just make sure you bring your grill along so you can grill me something tasty.

Whose your favorite celebrity chef and why?

The Pros and Cons of Shared Housing: Persimmon and Brandy Chutney

DSC_0463W are finally in Melbourne, and I’m simply loving it. Some places you feel a connection with. Others, you don’t. For me, Melbourne is one of those cities where that clique happens, at least this time around. When visiting in the past, I didn’t necessarily feel that connection, but now that I am settling in for a good stay, I have opened up to the city and in turn Melbourne has sent its love back. Currently, that love is in the form of a 5 kilo round of pecorino cheese my lovely new housemate Tom brought home from work. Ah, cheese, the way to my heart.

Yes, you read correctly–we have a housemate. Actually, we have two housemates. I had assumed that after making the transition to living with just my boyfriend we would continue living just us. This expectation was swiftly squashed however, when we realized Melbourne ain’t cheap, and we are still keen to continue traveling (a hobby which can burn a whole into the pockets ril fast). And so, for those trips to happen, and really so we have extra cash for eating all of the amazing food in Melbourne, we are back to housemates.

The cons of having roommates are obvious, the main inconvenience in my opinion being the unspoken agreement that it isn’t cool to walk around the house naked. But some of my closest friends today were originally just strangers who I shared the same toilet with. I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of living with someone else and just sharing a utility bill. Why would you want to live with someone you don’t even want to know? How would you trust them not to dunk your toothbrush into the toilet? Even if you aren’t walking around naked, chances are, one of your housemates is going to spot your wobbly bits at some point, and better you know that person likes you and won’t be inclined to snap it and put it on Facebook.

Sure, we have all had our bad experiences with roomies–i.e. Being locked out at 3am cause they bolted the door and passed out, coming home to find a housemate’s friend’s asleep in your bed, and of course, the forever dirty fry pan, a situation which John Birmingham explores in depth in his book He Died with a Felafel in his Hand. Yup, Mr. Birmingham did indeed come home to find a flatemate who had died while in the process of consuming a felafel.

The examples given above are pretty run of the mill (except the one about the dead guy)– annoying but not life threatening. They can over time build into a frustration that might translate into small doses of insanity if you live with, say, a neurotic New Yorker by the name of Ali, but there won’t be any blood shed (scrap that–a guy was locked up in Australia recently for killing his housemate because he kept leaving the bathroom dirty). Anyway, if you can get past the inevitable annoyances, and realize you yourself do just as many things that rub your housemates the wrong way, having housemates isn’t so bad.

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Apart from landing some pretty chill housemates, we also live a walk away from the amazing Queen Victoria Markets, possibly the largest and oldest market in the Southern Hemisphere. We have only be here two weeks and I have easily been 6 times, and eaten at least that many spinach and cheese boureks while wandering the premises. From the deli section, to the meat and fish section, to produce, to prepared foods and an awesome night market in the summer, this is my favorite place to spend time so far in my new city. If you make it to this year’s last Suzuki Night Market next Wednesday (March 27th) I highly recommend the Mr. Calamaro stand. I had the “Bocadill0”– amazingly light calamari on a roll with aioli and a piquillo pepper. Yum!

Lisa's Appled BrandyBottled Dec 2012

Lisa’s Appled Brandy
Bottled Dec 2012

Vic Markets is a great place to get seasonal veg, and persimmons are in right now. With fuyu persimmons and some delicious apple brandy that my friend Lisa “appled” herself and bottled in style (but that I am too wimpy to drink straight), I made a persimmon and brandy chutney adapted from a recipe in Saveur Magazine by Marisa McClellan, author of  Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round. I’m not a big fan of super sweet chutney, so I have cut down on the sugar, and added brandy and some spiciness. It tastes good right off the stove, but I prefer my chutney after it has sat on the shelf for a few months so the flavors can mesh and the acid can mellow.

What’s your favorite foodie spot in Melbourne?

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Persimmon and Brandy Chutney

Recipe by: Alexandra Nardi (adapted from: Marisa McClellan’s recipe in Saveur Magazine)

Ingredients:

  • 3 x 270 ml jars/ half pint jars and lids
  • 2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 3 cloves
  • 3-inch piece cassia bark or cinnamon stick
  • 2 1/2 pounds (1100 grams) persimmons, chopped
  • 1/2 pound (200 grams) apple, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup H2O
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 strips lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt to taste
  1. Wash and sterilize jars and lids.
  2. In a large pot (large enough to fit all ingredients), toast mustard seeds, fennel seeds, coriander, and cardamom pods over medium heat. When the mustard seeds begin to jump, add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, or until you have the chutney texture where you want it, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning. Remove cassia bark and lemon zest strips.
  3. Transfer chutney to jars, leaving 1/4 to 1/3 inch space at top of jars and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.