Monthly Archives: May 2014

Kumara, Walnut and Cranberry Couscous

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This dish has a lot going for itself. Its delicious, quick to whip up, a textural feast – did I mention its delicious? I make this to take to work for lunch but it would also make a great side for dinner or a good take-along dish (especially if you want something that looks sophisticated when really its not!).

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A note on couscous: I love couscous (its kind of a bitch to type, though. Am I right?). Its cheap and versatile. Its fast-food at its best – to prepare you just combine equal parts boiling water and couscous and cover for about 10 minutes until the water has been absorbed.

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Kumara, Walnut and Cranberry Couscous

500 grams of orange kumara (sweet potato)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of oil
1 cup couscous
1 cup boiling water
1 heaped tablespoon of butter
Half a cup of chopped walnuts
A good half a cup (heaped) of dried cranberries
Half a cup of parsley (a little more if you like it)
The zest of one orange

Heat your oven to 220ºC. 

Chop your kumara into 2cm cubes. Toss together the oil, a few good grinds of black pepper and a good dash of salt with the kumara on an oven tray. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until cooked through and crisp on the outside.

While the kumara is cooking, prepare the couscous. Place couscous, butter and 14 teaspoon of salt in a bowl. Top with boiling water (1 cup). Stir quickly (don’t worry if all of the butter doesn’t melt). Cover the bowl (I use a plate) and put aside until the kumara is cooked.

Chop the walnuts and parsley. When the kumara is cooked, set aside to cool slightly. Fluff the couscous with a fork. In a large bowl or serving dish combine the couscous, parsley, cranberries, walnuts, a few good grinds of black pepper and more salt to taste, the kumara and then add the zest. Stir well.

Serve straight away or pop in the fridge.

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I Made a Skirt!

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Hello! It’s starting to look a bit like a sewing blog around here and I apologise for that if sewing is not your jam (it kind of should be!) but here’s the thing: this skirt took me, I’m going to guess, a good 10 hours to make. That’s like 10 chocolate cakes. So it deserves a post!).

This was my most satisfying project to date. I’m not going to say it was the fun the whole time. There were swearing fits. There were bonding moments between me and the sewing machine. I couldn’t stand up straight by the end of Sunday. There is still blue thread and fabric offcuts EVERYWHERE. I’m not sure I wan’t to sew, press, pin, cut or measure ever again. But I do! I’ve already picked my next project ;)

How did I find the Tilly and the Buttons pattern? Well, I LOVED it. It was the very first ‘proper’ sewing pattern I’ve looked at or used. It made a skirt, that I am wearing as I type this so I deem it a success. I don’t know how it would stack up to other sewing patterns. But I do know that in the most part I found the instructions very thorough, easy to follow and accurate. I would buy one of her patterns again (and I probably will soon).

What did I learn? Doing a big project (like a skirt as opposed to a tote bag) is GREAT for improving your sewing skills. I think my lines were straighter by the end of the weekend. I also learnt lots of new lingo and skills. It taught me that good instructions are crucial. Spending money on a pattern is worth it. I learnt that I can do it! And you probably can too. It was slow and sometimes tedious  – I literally spent all of Sunday in my pyjamas in front of the sewing machine – but immensely satisfying. I can’t wait to start my next project.

(Note that it took me 10 hours. It might take you less. I’m still learning and this was my first time sewing a garment. This time also included constructing the pattern as I bought the digital version (which I recommend)). DSC_0079DSC_0085DSC_0092DSC_0096DSC_0125

Ta-da!! (Excuse the dirty mirror. I’m too busy makin’ skirts to clean :D)

cute skirt collage

Happy Spaces v.8

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Happy Saturday-at-last! I hope your week has been fulfilling, productive and downright awesome. Mines been some of that and also a whole mix-bag of other things. Its included studying for a marketing test and passing it (!!), thinking about life’s big picture and making decisions, getting amped for Wellington next week, finding peace in a hot bath and the pages of Twyla Tharp’s great (great, great) book and now to the weekend where I plan to cross another item off my May list and sew a skirt (or at least make a start! This could also be the point where I discover I never want to look at a sewing machine again. We shall see).

Here’s the usual dose of fortnightly good stuff.

These animal bookmark printables are cute. Cute cute. Apparently they are for children. Why can’t I have a little lion poking out from the corner of my book?

Pom pom boquets! I’m not exactly planning a wedding but I kind of LOVE this. The top-left is my fave: those colours are the best. Bookmarking this fo’ later ;)

One of my fave mags has entered the webosphere at last. This apple and sultana cake looks grand!

This week I made pizza! And I wanted to recommend Elise’s pizza dough again. Its super.

These washcloths are of the too cute kind. Those ones that you can’t use because they’re too cute. Once I master the scarf, I’ll be having a crack at this. Plus, I like the name of her blog.

– I just started reading a good book and I’m hooked: The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp. Tharp is a choreographer, a really-big-deal choreographer who’s been doing her thing since 1965. She knows some stuff. She knows about finding and keeping creativity. I’m very interested to keep reading. If you’re any sort of creative type I think you’ll find it interesting if not absolutely enthralling. It also kind of makes me want to go and see ballet again.

Have a great weekend! I’ll report back on my skirt adventures soon.

Plastic (is not so) Fantastic: A Shift in Thinking

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One of the ‘unsavoury’ results of spending a lot of time in the kitchen is the large consumption of plastic – plastic wrap for leftovers, plastic containers for transporting and storing food and so on. Add that to the plastic that comes as food packaging and you can end up with a lot of waste, which is both expensive for us to dispose of and pretty crappy for the environment.

The thing that I don’t like about plastic, or more so, the philosophy of plastic, is its disposability. It feels wrong every time I use plastic wrap, which is intended for single use. We recycle our plastic takeaway containers which store a surprising amount of food. I don’t feel like that’s enough though. I’ve been doing some hunting for plastic alternatives. I had two things in mind – true plastic alternatives, stuff made out of something more eco-friendly than plastic, and disposable alternatives, stuff designed for repetitive use.

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I really want to buy all of the cute lunch bags and enviro-happy things. Dinosaur lunch box? Yes please. But first, start at zero. What can you re-use, recycle or simply not buy? Zip-lock bags are still plastic but more reusable than plastic wrap. I reuse the produce bags that you get at supermarkets: they’re good for transporting lunch. Bread bags are also useful. Keep any containers that you can and store them. Every 6 months have a rummage through and recycle anything that you never use. I’m sure you all know of the unlimited uses of an ice cream container. I recently started making my own mayonnaise which has a myriad of benefits to shop-bought but a primary benefit is that I don’t buy any plastic. My co-worker (and all round awesome lady) Katie has started buying fresh milk which comes from a vending machine at a local veg store (from a farm not far away) – you take your own bottle to fill. I love this kind of thinking most of all.

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If you work away from home, you need a lunch transporter. Here are some options that are slightly higher class than a bread bag. (Also, if you don’t make your own lunch most of the time, you should start with that!)

This leopard print insulated bag.
Cute animal lunch bags (for the child or the child in you).
This eco sandwich wrap.
This classy lunch bag.
This bento-style box.
This cute DIY.
This cute cotton lunch bag (US).
These cute sandwich pockets.
Steven’s range of Sistema containers.

keppra price Food wrapping options

This Orla Kiely cake tin set. (I think I could justify the price because I would get a LOT of use out of them).
These reusable food wraps. A true plastic wrap alternative.
Cute bowl covers (other good stuff on this website).
The onion pod. Seems gimmicky but I like the idea of a dedicated onion container. (There are also options for avocados, tomatoes, lemons and more)
This bamboo container set. Great price!
And cute Malamine bowls with lids.

I think that reducing plastic is about pinpointing the exact times that you fall into the plastic trap. For me, its mostly leftovers. We’re two people and I cook for a small army. We always have leftovers, which is great, but storing them is kind of a drag, especially at night when I just want to curl up in a ball with Pesto and sleep off dinner. Its very easy to reach for the plastic wrap because its there. Make it easy to do the right thing. My next investment will be some sort of bowls with lids. I’d like glass or the bamboo ones featured above. How easy is it to put a lid on something? I like that!

I saw one of the ‘better living’ ads the other day, featuring Glad products. Sure, zip zap and there’s your food covered up and away you go. But is that really better living? I’d love to live in a society where the norm was working away from using plastics. I’m no saint. Plastic lives in every room of my house, but every time I roll out the plastic wrap I almost cringe. There has to be a better way. A way that is no more difficult. A way that works for someone like me, who works all day, comes home to churn out a blog post and maybe some study and cooks dinner. Why is it so easy to buy plastic wrap and not so easy to shell out a bit of cash for some tasteful, long-term, friendly alternatives? I LOVE all of the above options I’ve listed and I swear that just one of them (or any others not listed) would be a great step in the right direction. Let’s make that step.

I don’t think its an all or nothing situation. I think you can have your plastic wrap and your Malamine bowls. In an ideal world we’d cook and eat less, produce little waste and not make so much crap out of plastic. But in this world that we actually live in, where non-plastic sandwich holders are handmade by someone who probably makes little money from that venture, the best thing we can do is change our way of thinking. Next time you reach for the plastic think about the time line of that product. My wage goes in an impossible number of directions but I plan on making one of those a pretty, feel-good, plastic alternative. I hope you’ll join me. Many hands make light work. Always.

Poached Chicken: An Experiment

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I love experimenting in the kitchen and trying new cooking concepts. This weekend was fun: I made tabbouleh, poached chicken and pizza dough – all firsts for me. I had high hopes for my chicken. I’ll be honest, this was primarily due the fact that it looked so pretty. OK chicken’s don’t look pretty, ever. But all of the fresh herbs, lemon slices, crushed garlic. It had to be great.

The verdict: I was less than excited. I enjoyed the process and honestly, having chicken in the fridge that you can just throw into a meal (see below) and home made stock is kind of the best. But next time, next time I think I’ll just roast. I’m undecided. Have you poached a chicken? I think I’ll do it again and play around with the flavours. For now, I’m just enjoying the end result.

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Last night I made pizza which kind of made all other food moot. It. was. good. Real good. Chicken, capsicum, Camembert. I’ll make that again. For sure. And there is still plenty of chicken left.

I used this Rachael Ray recipe and this Jamie recipe for inspo for my poached chicken. I used Elise’s pizza dough recipe which was great!

Happy Monday! I hope you had a relaxing weekend before getting back to the grind. I have a big marketing test this week. Its cool. Totally cool. I’m not freaking out. I have eaten 5 peanut brownies. But its cool. Right?

I’ve got a bunch of posts planned but if there is a mysterious lull on the Happy Pantry front its because I’ve glued my head to a text book.

Have a great week!