Kitchen Therapy


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Crumb Topped Apple Bars

It has been a very long while since I cooked with the Tuesdays with Dorie group. I have always enjoyed being a part of the group. However, as I mentioned in my last post, I was working with rape and domestic violence clients, working a 24 hour roster and then I caught every virus going, the last one being glandular fever. I just could not recover. I made attempts to join in with the cooking, however it was always short lived.
I have recently found a functional medicine doctor, not many of those here in Australia! I wasn’t expecting much, considering my experience to date with doctors has been… not great to say the least.
Some genetic testing revealed I have inherited faulty MTHFR genes. Not one, but two faulty copies from each parent! Basically, this gene mutation effects my ability to convert folate I eat into something my body can use. If you are cruising through life, this might not be much of an issue, and for me it was fine for some 40+ years. However once I became very ill, it was hard to recover.
I tried everything! Even going vegan for a while, which I now realise made things worse as my body needs a much larger amount of B12 than the average ‘non mutant’ gene person 🙂
I am excited that with high doses of B12 and methylfolate (tiny doses) I am already feeling better! And the first thing I wanted to do was cook!

This week’s recipe was interesting for me as part of my healing was cooking green apples, with a handful of raisins, cinnamon and some honey. I love this combination. The crumb topped apple bars are the same combination (minus the cinnamon) on a cookie base!
It was so much fun cooking this. I haven’t used butter and sugar in a while and it was ridiculously enjoyable! I realised my tastes have changed a bit and while I loved the apple filling I did find the whole bar a bit too sweet! Something I did not think I would ever say in my life!
The rest of the family was very excited with the smells that filled the house with this recipe. They have enjoyed the raw desserts I’ve been making however they did say they missed the smell of baking 🙂
I am looking forward to reading about what the other members of the Tuesdays with Dorie group thought of their recipe of the week.


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Jammer Cookies

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This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is the Jammer Galette. Dorie describes it as “a vanilla sable topped with a spoonful of jam and circled with streusel.” The recipe is for a “thick, chunky galette” however I couldn’t get the idea of small, cookie sized jammer out of my mind. I wanted something I could just pop into my mouth and savour, and these turned out perfect!

As I was making these I was thinking about this blogging thing and the love and effort that we all put into it.
We buy the ingredients, we make the food, we photograph it making it look as pretty as we can and then we write about it. It’s a fair amount of work!

Recently, I have come across people on various social media sites (totally unrelated to any of these groups by the way!) posting photos of food that they have taken from magazines or other sites and claiming it is their own. I’ve read about this on other blogs and in my naivety I always thought no, that doesn’t really happen! However, having witnessed it, it’s been on my mind a lot recently.

My first reaction was “wow! the audacity!”and I laughed it off (that’s often my first reaction to most things). As time has gone by I realise that it actually does bother me. With each recipe we make I’ve become more and more mindful of the time, commitment, love and effort involved. Sometimes the efforts are rewarding and other times nothing goes right from start to finish! Either way we are in this, doing it, and for that I have a huge respect.

These little cookies didn’t have many ingredients however they really were a labour of love.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In hindsight my little slap of reality has been good for me.

We loved these and I can’t wait to see what recipe the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie group cooked!
I found Dorie’s recipe for these on the Epicurious website if anyone is interested in trying them 🙂


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Beef Cheek Daube with Carrots and Elbow Macaroni

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Herbed Olives.
Ummm…
I didn’t make herbed olives.
I didn’t even register herbed olives on the November recipe schedule!
I just went to the FFWD site to get ready to link to it and there they were.
November 23rd – Herbed Olives.

 

I’m genuinely baffled and a little amused!
(Amused because I think my little obsession with beef cheeks has rendered me blind!)

 

 

It all started with an episode of MasterChef.
One of the contestants was cooking against a chef from Melbourne called Frank Camorra.
There was such a humbleness and graciousness in the chef’s demeanor, years later, I can still recall how uplifted and inspired I felt after that episode.
On our next trip to Melbourne,  I googled his restaurant on a whim and before I knew it, we were having lunch at his Spanish restaurant, Movida.
I was so excited, I wanted to try everything on his Tapas style menu.
Dish after dish arrived, my husband and I were having so much fun.
The flavours were exciting and new.
And then… right at the end… it came out.
Braised Beef Cheeks in Pedro Ximenez on Cauliflower Puree.
I didn’t think food could make you feel giddy with pleasure.
But that’s what this dish did to me.
The beef cheeks melted in my mouth.
The sweetness of the dark, thick, sherry sauce was perfectly balanced and complimented by the smooth cauliflower puree.
Seriously, my words just don’t do this dish justice.
Every 2-3 months we fly to Melbourne and 2 years later, our first stop is still Movida.

So with all this flooding my mind, it’s no wonder I jumped the gun on this recipe!

Dorie’s recipe for beef cheeks was good.
Comforting.
Satisfying.

After all the jumping around it was a good meal to sit on the back deck and fill up on…

 

Once I realised this was not going to be anything like Movida’s beef cheeks, I let go of my expectations and enjoyed the dish. It was a good, solid, meal.

If you’d like to see what French Fridays with Dorie is all about, click here.

 

 

 

 


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Freshwater Beach, Cappuccino and Orange Butter Drops with Coconut

It’s spring!
The weather is warming up, the days are getting longer and everything looks so vibrant and colourful.
Feels like all my senses are coming alive.
The jasmine that covers our fence is in full bloom.
Each time I step outside I can smell it. 
Hanging out the laundry has suddenly become a pleasant experience!

The track leading to Manly beach goes right past our house.
I walk it regularly. 
But suddenly it’s so alive!
The scenery I’ve taken for granted all winter has me slowing down to take it all in.

I walked to Manly and then continued on to Freshwater beach this weekend.
I stopped for a cappuccino at the kiosk attached to the very popular Pilu restaurant (upper right hand pic below) while I waited for my husband and kids to meet me.
They made my cappuccino with real chocolate flakes! 
How decadent!
(the little bit I actually got to taste was amazing!)

A perfect way to finish my walk!

The spring light and sunshine had me inspired.
After a leisurely lunch at Dee Why beach I couldn’t wait to get home and make these Orange Butter Drops with Shredded Coconut from my latest crush, my One Girl Cookies cookbook.
I’ve had my eye on these cookies for a while now and today was the perfect day to make these little bursts of sunshine!
My little monkey and I made these in no time and my friend arrived as I pulled them out of the oven.
We sat around the kitchen bench dipping them into the orange and cream cheese glaze, then the coconut and then straight into our mouths!
They were incredibly pretty to look at and tasted delicious!

ORANGE BUTTER DROPS with Shredded Coconut
(One Girl Cookies)

3 /4 cup granulated sugar
grated zest of one orange
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1. Put the granulated sugar and the orange zest in a medium bowl. Using both hands, rub the sugar into the orange zest. Put the mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and add the flour and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds.

2. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the pieces of butter. When the mixture begins to look like crumbs, add the vanilla. Gradually add 2 tablespoons of the cream cheese. When the dough starts to clump together, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead it by hand for a few seconds until it is fully combined.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C.

4. Scoop out a small round of dough, about 1 1/2 tablespoons in size. Roll the scoop into a ball, place it on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and gently press the ball. Repeat, leaving 1 inch between cookies. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

5. Prepare the glaze: In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon cream cheese, the orange juice, and the confectioner’s sugar. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 2 more minutes. The glaze should be as thick as glue.

6. Spread the coconut on a plate. Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze, dip into the shredded coconut (I used dessicated coconut), and let set for 20 minutes.


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Hazelnut Biscotti and Getting My Mojo Back!

You know that feeling?
The one where you know you are kind of… sort of… off track?
You can feel it.
It’s real and it’s… well… frustrating.
You try and work out how and why you got off track.
But you can’t quite put your finger on it.

There’s been all day futsal championships…
All day soccer championships.
Weekend sports.
And, oh, don’t forget the mid week training sessions for the weekend sports.
And speaking of weekends, there’s birthday parties to attend…

Concerts to get ready for…

And the endless driving!
Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not complaining.
I actually enjoy the chaos.

But I think I’ve forgotten what gets me through the chaos.
Through the swimming lessons, band, homework and the never ending housework!

Cooking.
Baking.

This is what I enjoy. What makes me happy.
But I guess when there’s so much of everything else to do, cooking, baking and blogging just feels like more work.
And here’s where I went off track!
I stopped doing the things that feed my soul! (Dramatic, I know! Sorry! Occupational hazard!)

I realised this while I was blanching and peeling the hazelnuts for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe!
The nuts were doing my head in.
I mean, come on! I don’t have better things to do than stand here rubbing the skin off hazelnuts?!?!
And can’t you just buy these little suckers skinless???

Then it hit me and I started to laugh.
The reason I called my blog Kitchen Therapy was because my own therapist pointed out to me that cooking is my form of mindfulness training.
My way to be fully engaged and in the present moment.
Sort of like my meditation.
(And we all now know how good meditation is for you!)

So I stopped thinking about how much I’d like to cook something and I just started doing it.

It felt good!
The hazelnut biscotti smelled amazing and I felt happy!
It was that simple!!!

It’s almost midnight and I’m snacking on these as I type.
My husband is next to me watching the latest season of Dexter complaining about not being able to stop eating them cos they taste sooo good!
I will definitely make these again, my daughter requested a choc-chip filling next time!

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie group thought.
If you would like to check out the recipe, head over to this week’s hosts who have the full recipe on their websites.
Jodi of Homemade and Wholesome and Katrina of Baking and Boys.


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2012 – Resolutions and Peach Jelly and Vanilla Panna Cotta

I am a sucker for New Beginnings.
A Fresh Start.
Hope and Possibilities.

To me, a New Year is like buying a new Journal.
The pages are crisp, clean and waiting to be written on.
I get butterflies in my stomach in anticipation.

I love setting New Year Resolutions.
(I forget most of them by mid January).
But my goodness I love setting them!

So with New Year’s Eve approaching, I was not going to let my favourite time of year slip by me in a blur of busy-ness!

I have been wanting to do the Bondi to Bronte walk for a few weeks now.
So I convinced my husband and kids a 7 km, cliff walk, was exactly what we all needed!
The cliffs, the ocean, the crashing waves, it all feels so… cleansing!
But at the same time it’s Bondi beach.
It’s fun and exciting and a place where anything can happen!

So as we walked from Bondi beach…

Past the Bondi Icebergs…

And made our way to Bronte…

Where we stopped and had lunch…

I FELT the frustrations, the regrets and the limitations I had wittingly and unwittingly imposed on myself and exposed myself to.
The hurts, humiliations and embarrassments.
The worries that kept me up at night.
The people that let me down (again and again) as I turned a blind eye.
And those that were always there and I shamefully took for granted.
I didn’t run away.
I wanted to!
But that’s not what today was about!
Today was about new beginnings and making resolutions.
And I couldn’t get to the fun part until I worked through the messy bits.

On the walk back I thought of all the good stuff of 2011.
The achievements, successes, joy and love.
I tried to pinpoint what I was doing around the times that I felt at my best.

I also starting to think about a story I read by an author (no idea who it was). They said one year they set themselves one resolution. To not tell a lie. Sounds simple! But this one little resolution led to the dissolving of friendships and relationships and incredible turmoil. In hindsight, they said they could see it was a necessary step to finding what they’re about in this life.

So rather than making my usual list of resolutions, I too have only picked one resolution for 2012.

To be PRESENT.

Science has now confirmed that our mind can change the brain’s circuitry and change the connections our brains make. We filter input in our own unique way based on the life experiences we have had. As a result we can get into a rut, making the same choices again and again.
Choices that are familiar and comfortable but not necessarily good for us.

Being present means we remain open to ourselves and others.
It means, when stuff comes up for us, we don’t react in our usual ways.
It means sitting with unpleasant feelings, like uncertainty and vulnerability, without reacting.
And when the need to run, fight, please, or plead subsides, we have clarity.
We are open to the present moment without judgement.
We are open to all the possibilities of life.

And what could be more exciting than that?

A clean slate to write on for 2012.

We came home and made this Peach Jelly and Vanilla Panna Cotta.

I saw this dessert in Issue 6 of the Donna Hay Magazine a few years back.
It looked so festive and elegant I couldn’t resist it.
I have been making it every year since.
It’s become tradition.
We all look forward to it.
As the panna cotta sits on the stove cooling, we stand around, chatting and dipping our spoons into the silky smooth mixture.
We all look forward to it.
For our family this dessert signals the holiday season is here.

PEACH JELLY AND VANILLA PANNA COTTA
(pretty much as it appears in Issue 6 of Donna Hay Magazine) 

Peach Jelly

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3 peaches, halved and stoned
1 tbsp gelatine
1/3 cup raspberries

Vanilla Panna Cotta

2 tbsp gelatine
1/3 cup warm water
3 3/4 cups single or pouring cream
1 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. To make the jelly, place the water, sugar and vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the peaches and allow to simmer 3-5 minutes or until soft. Remove the peaches, slip off skins and set aside. Place 1/4 cup of the peach liquid in a bowl, sprinkle over the gelatine and set aside for 5 minutes. Add the peach and gelatine mixture to the remaining peach liquid, stir and simmer for 2 minutes or until the gelatine is dissolved. Remove the vanilla bean. Place the peaches cut side up in a well greased loaf tin, sprinkle with the raspberries and pour over the liquid. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.

2. To make the panna cotta, sprinkle the extra gelatine over the extra water and set aside for 5 minutes. Place the cream, icing sugar and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the gelatine mixture and simmer over low heat for 4 minutes or until the gelatine is dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Pour the panna cotta mixture over the set jelly and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. Invert and slice to serve.


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W H Auden – Miss Gee

You know that feeling you get when something resonates within you?
When it strikes a chord and touches your core?
Poems, songs, paintings and words connect us with our heart and the essence of who we are.
They help us find our true selves.

I had that feeling when I was introduced to the works of W.H. Auden.
As I read his poems, I felt something inside me stir.
They touched something within me.
Almost 20 years later, I still think about them on a regular basis.

From what I can remember, Auden’s predecessors such as Yeats, Lawrence and Eliot, wanted to turn away from the imperfect world we live in and write about an ideal promised land.
Auden on the other hand was interested in capturing the present moment with all it’s faults and flaws. By understanding what created the present, he hoped it might help us act better in the future.

Maybe, if I hadn’t followed a career in psychology I wouldn’t have thought of Auden’s poem, Miss Gee ever again. But as I sit and listen to lives lost to so many fears, images of Miss Gee fill my thoughts.
For me, the mismatch between the rhythm of this poem and the grimness of the topic capture the essence of these lives lost to repression and control.

Miss Gee

Let me tell you a little story
About Miss Edith Gee;
She lived in Clevedon Terrace
At number 83.

She’d a slight squint in her left eye,
Her lips they were thin and small,
She had narrow sloping shoulders
And she had no bust at all.

She’d a velvet hat with trimmings,
And a dark grey serge costume;
She lived in Clevedon Terrace
In a small bed-sitting room.

She’d a purple mac for wet days,
A green umbrella too to take,
She’d a bicycle with shopping basket
And a harsh back-pedal break.

The Church of Saint Aloysius
Was not so very far;
She did a lot of knitting,
Knitting for the Church Bazaar.

Miss Gee looked up at the starlight
And said, ‘Does anyone care
That I live on Clevedon Terrace
On one hundred pounds a year?’

She dreamed a dream one evening
That she was the Queen of France
And the Vicar of Saint Aloysius
Asked Her Majesty to dance.

But a storm blew down the palace,
She was biking through a field of corn,
And a bull with the face of the Vicar
Was charging with lowered horn.

She could feel his hot breath behind her,
He was going to overtake;
And the bicycle went slower and slower
Because of that back-pedal break.

Summer made the trees a picture,
Winter made them a wreck;
She bicycled to the evening service
With her clothes buttoned up to her neck.

She passed by the loving couples,
She turned her head away;
She passed by the loving couples,
And they didn’t ask her to stay.

Miss Gee sat in the side-aisle,
She heard the organ play;
And the choir sang so sweetly
At the ending of the day,

Miss Gee knelt down in the side-aisle,
She knelt down on her knees;
‘Lead me not into temptation
But make me a good girl, please.’

The days and nights went by her
Like waves round a Cornish wreck;
She bicycled down to the doctor
With her clothes buttoned up to her neck.

She bicycled down to the doctor,
And rang the surgery bell;
‘O, doctor, I’ve a pain inside me,
And I don’t feel very well.’

Doctor Thomas looked her over,
And then he looked some more;
Walked over to his wash-basin,
Said,’Why didn’t you come before?’

Doctor Thomas sat over his dinner,
Though his wife was waiting to ring,
Rolling his bread into pellets;
Said, ‘Cancer’s a funny thing.

‘Nobody knows what the cause is,
Though some pretend they do;
It’s like some hidden assassin
Waiting to strike at you.

‘Childless women get it.
And men when they retire;
It’s as if there had to be some outlet
For their foiled creative fire.’

His wife she rang for the servent,
Said, ‘Dont be so morbid, dear’;
He said: ‘I saw Miss Gee this evening
And she’s a goner, I fear.’

They took Miss Gee to the hospital,
She lay there a total wreck,
Lay in the ward for women
With her bedclothes right up to her neck.

They lay her on the table,
The students began to laugh;
And Mr. Rose the surgeon
He cut Miss Gee in half.

Mr. Rose he turned to his students,
Said, ‘Gentlemen if you please,
We seldom see a sarcoma
As far advanced as this.’

They took her off the table,
They wheeled away Miss Gee
Down to another department
Where they study Anatomy.

They hung her from the ceiling
Yes, they hung up Miss Gee;
And a couple of Oxford Groupers
Carefully dissected her knee.

Auden believed that repressed emotions caused cancer.
Miss Gee suppressed her feelings, her desires, her longings, her true self.
And it killed her.

Pay attention to what resonates within you and follow it with all your heart!