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Food, general thoughts, food…


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Summer is sputtering out

We are coming to the end of grape season here in Australia. I am not okay with that. I eat a lot of grapes (while they are in season) and miss them when they are not available. I enjoy going to my grocers and seeing what they have this week. I particularly like green seedless grapes, why green in particular, not really sure. The fondness for seedlessness is self-explanatory.

At the beginning of the season this year my grocer had these bunches of grapes that I had never seen before and were not labelled as anything particular but they were delightful. Huge round grapes, like I have never seen before, each one a mouthful on its own. When you bit into them it was like an explosion of liquid, sweet but not too sweet, almost like taking a mouthful of liquid from a glass and so refreshing. They lasted for about four weeks and then were replaced by more mundane, but still lovely, lady finger type grapes. Now I fear the lady fingers are on their last leg for the season, they are turning yellow and are super sweet (not my favourite, I prefer them when they are green and have a tang) and I fear our shelves will soon be bereft of them completely.

My favourite time of year is coming to a close, grapes and stone fruit will soon disappear and I will be reduced to the mundane everyday fruits like apples and oranges. I may not be fond of summer for the traditional Australian reasons (sand, surf, sun) but I look forward to the variety and taste explosions of the summer fruits each year and bitterly miss them when the season draws to a close.

Meanwhile, the above picture is my spearmint (not the one I re-potted recently), grown from bits from the supermarket last year. It is now flowering with gusto and has produced plenty of new leaves this year so that I can make my minty fresh lemonade as often as I wish to. This is its only job and it does it admirably. Plants make me happy.

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Pork Belly Rub

So, nothing much happening in my life that is noteworthy. Just eating and sleeping and working. Any other time is spent pottering in the garden. I did repot a mint plant this week that took ½ hour to remove from its current pot, mint is tenacious. Despite its reluctance to move it should be much happier in its new pot with plenty of room to expand.

While I was struggling with my stubborn and ungrateful mint plant my dinner was roasting away in the oven. I fancied trying a new dry rub on some pork belly strips (I actually fancied lamb chops but there were none to be found in the freezer, so I settled for pork). I found a recipe here that sounded good and then changed it because I didn’t need that amount of dry rub that I’d never tried before and I like to change everything anyway. Having made some and tasted it, I think I will make myself a batch and keep it handy as I found it pretty enjoyable.

Pork Belly Rub

1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp Mexican chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne

Combine all ingredients and rub over 5 pork rashers.
Place in a 200C oven for 1 hour or until cooked through with crispy skin.


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Banana Cakes

One thing I don’t have a shortage of lately is bananas, bananas that have seen better days. I swear bananas are different than they used to be. They used to ripen fairly quickly going yellow and then developing brown freckles then they eventually went brown all over and if not used up by then they would be on their way to being black. These days they go from green yellow, immediately to solid black in less than a week. I eat a couple of bananas a day on a regular basis but I seem to end up with a few of black bananas in storage by the end of the week. Worse yet the bananas inside the skins are grey and look wholly unappetising.

So what to do with old bananas? Banana bread or in this case banana cake was the obvious answer. Banana cake is great after a few days, it gets soft and develops a stronger banana flavour as it gets a little older but it is at its best (in my opinion) when it comes out of the over, hot and steaming and crunchy around the sides (I love that crunchy edge). I could eat a whole cake just like that on my own. To avoid this tragic turn of events this weekend, I cooked two banana cakes. That way I could eat half of each and everyone else still got a sample and I feel like I haven’t eaten a whole cake myself (two halves do not equal a whole if you make a square and a circle, they are just not the same thing at all).

I just had so many bananas laying about I had to do something. To be honest with you, we collectively ate two half cakes and I froze half of each for a later date. Much of what I ate was straight out of the oven though and it was so good I had one of those ‘I am full but just want to keep eating’ moments. I used two different recipes, one was voted ‘the best banana cake ever’ by a group of 11 year olds (an obvious ‘must try’ in that case) and the other was named ‘exquisite banana cake’ which grabbed my attention immediately. Having tried both (both fresh from the oven and later down the track I will say this about them:

Best Ever Banana Cake (round cake) – I understand why this was voted for by the kids, it has a high sugar ratio and is sweeter and denser than the other cake. I enjoyed it but felt it lacked something (probably nutmeg)

Exquisite Banana Cake (square cake) – This was a more grown up version, less sugar and it had nutmeg (I like nutmeg), very simple ingredient list and my favourite of the two.

Both recipes are below and both are courtesy of kidspot.com.au (I have linked the above recipe critiques to the original recipes)

Banana cake

125g butter, softened
1 1/2 cup castor sugar
2 eggs (60g), beaten
1 cup (approx. 2 large) ripe bananas, mashed
5 drops vanilla
250g plain flour
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180C. Butter and line a square cake tin.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, bananas and vanilla.
Sift the dry ingredients together.
Mix together the milk and lemon juice.
Alternating, add the dry ingredients and the milk, beating between each addition.
Bake in the oven for approximately 45 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.
Rest in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

 

Exquisite banana cake

125g butter and dash of vanilla essence
¾ cup castor sugar
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas – could do 4 if you want it really bananary
200g lite sour cream (I used Greek yoghurt)
2 cups self raising flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Cream butter, vanilla and sugar. Add eggs and mix.
Mash bananas and mix in sour cream.
Add to rest of mixture.
Add all dry ingredients to banana mixture.
Mix slowly.
Bake at 180ºC for 45 minutes.
Ice if desired.(really there is no need but if you want to, try a cream cheese frosting)


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Minty Fresh Lemonade

So, I don’t drink alcohol. Not because I personally object to its consumption for some reason and not (as my husband is fond of suggesting to people) because I am a recovering alcoholic but simply because my body has an adverse reaction to its consumption. Frankly, I kind of miss alcohol, not for its effect but mainly for the many many interesting liquers that are available. I used to enjoy making and drinking cocktails, it was creative and enjoyable.

I have recently begun to explore the option of mocktails which enables me to enjoy a more interesting and creative drink while not experiencing any of the adverse effects of the alcohol consumption. This drink was loosely based on a Mint Julep and may not look like much but this has been my go to mocktail of choice this summer. It is light and refreshing and so so easy to put together.

I was lucky enough to find some spearmint sprigs in my local shop last year and having used what I needed I popped the rest into a glass of water on my windowsill where they happily produced roots and began to grow. After being transferred to a pot in my garden they continued to thrive and I now have an endless supply of fresh spearmint to use whenever the fancy takes me.

Minty Fresh Lemonade

6-10 spearmint leaves
Lemonade of choice (I use Kirks, it is by far my favourite brand)
Ice

Tear and slightly crush the mint leaves, sprinkle into a glass.
Top with ½ glass full of ice. Shake glass to further bruise the mint leaves.
Gently pour lemonade into the glass.

Enjoy!


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Spicy Chicken Roulade

Thanks to The Greedy Foodie for the inspiration for this recipe!
Of course I changed things from the original, I have never been able to follow a recipe.
Here is link to the original recipe at The Greedy Foodie. 

This was super yummy, one of those meals that when you have finished and you are full you are totally disappointed that you don’t have enough room left for more. I just wanted a second, third and fourth helping of this chicken. In danger of actually exploding, I stuck with the one helping and made plans to make this again very soon.

Spicy Chicken Roulade

2 boneless chicken breasts
Oil  spray
1 Tbls finely chopped jalapenos
1 tsp garlic, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 cup of grated cheese (any kind you like)
Salt and Pepper
Breadcrumbs 

Butterfly the chicken breast. Use a meat mallet to flatten slightly.
Salt and pepper the chicken.
Mix other ingredients, barring the cheese, in a bowl.
Spread the filling on the chicken breast and press cheese over filling.
Roll chicken tightly then press on breadcrumbs.
Place seam downwards on an oven tray and pour a little oil over each breast.
Bake at 200C in the oven until cooked through.


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Content Warning: Not for the weak of stomach

I am a 40+ woman whose body type definitely leans toward the cuddly side of the spectrum. My days of being an uber fit gym junkie are most definitely behind me and although I can still touch my toes without bending my knees it isn’t something I do often for fear of pulling a muscle or inviting my back to remind me that it is there and it isn’t happy about it. I don’t normally have a problem with any of this; I am as content as possible with my age, my body type and my activity level.

However, I am currently alone in the house and something has died in my bedroom ceiling. As it has been a steady 33C for the past few weeks, you can imagine how I have determined this fact. My bedroom is currently less welcoming than it could be, in fact it has been quite unliveable and I have been sleeping in the lounge. I am most definitely not climbing into the roof space and hopping from rafter to rafter to find and collect to offending rodent(?). If it smells this bad in my bedroom I can’t imagine what the roof space must smell like. I had not thought deeply about it before but I am guessing this is the reason for the saying ‘I smell a rat!’. Trust me, if one dies in your roof space, you certainly do!

The upside of this is that my bedroom has never been cleaner. In the beginning, prior to it becoming clear what the smell actually was, I spent in inordinate amount of time cleaning my bedroom to find the slightly funky smell that it had developed.

The long and short of it is that the smell is now beginning to subside. Having grown up in the country and seeing my fair share of road kill (in Australia we have a lot) I imagine my roof cavity visitor is now almost gone, either nibbled up by those most suited to the job or he has been neatly mummified by the hot breeze over the past few days. I will be alone for another week, by which time I imagine the smell will be all but gone and my room will be liveable again.

Most of the time I am happy being a fairly sedentary, cuddly, middle aged woman but just occasionally I miss being a fit, fearless 20 year old.

My favourite quote about death:
Death is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it.
W. Somerset Maugham
(it also has great potential to smell bad)

You will forgive me for not posting a recipe today. I thought that after reading the above, nothing was likely to appear particularly appetising.


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Texan Pork Chops

This dinner was based on the below recipe. As you can see, it kind of expanded as it went (I figure that you have to start somewhere). Thing was that I had pork chops and a jar of jalapenos in the fridge and fancied combining the two, so off I went.

Not having any salsa to hand I first made some in a pot on the side. 3 diced tomatoes, ½ an onion, ½ a capsicum, paprika and a good dose of Mexican chilli and some salt took care of that and I left it to bubble away while I started the pork chops.

I followed the recipe in as much as I fried both sides of the pork chops and then added my homemade salsa. I served it just as it was then (my husband isn’t a jalapenos fan) on rice for my husband and on baby spinach leaves for me. My husband started to tuck in while I began to dress up my meal.

The pork chop was topped with a generous serve of the salsa, smothered in cheese, topped with a large dollop of Greek yoghurt and then a few jalapeno slices to dress it all up just a bit. I also had a small packet of Spicy Mexican Sausages in the freezer that I popped into the pan and served along with the pork.

I was very happy with my meal, my husband enjoyed his. I think I’ll do it again sometime and continue to do it my way, the recipe was just not dressed up enough to satisfy my mood at the time but it was a good starting point.

Texan Pork Chops

4 pork chops
1 cup salsa
2 jalapenos chopped

Oil pork chops and fry both sides with salt and pepper.
Add salsa to pan and cook until heated through.
Chop jalapenos and add to pan.
Cook for 15 more mins.