Journey to a new destination

Last week it was time to say farewell to my life as a teacher assistant and get back to my life as mama and student. I made little gifts for the 14 1st graders I worked with by getting them a ball of yarn each to do finger knitting over the summer. And for the kinder kids I made them a kumihimo loom with some extra thread to practice counting and to get crafty.

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The staff at Ventana sent me off with this lovely book as a farewell gift, it was sad to say goodbye to all the lovely people who work there. This dinner is a beyond meat sausage with porcini mushrooms and fennel over a bed of brown rice noodles.

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This amigurumi koala was made for our sitter and friend L who looked after the kids while I was working. I was so lucky to find her to take the kids to their after-school classes and the like and take care of my kids as if they were her own, they will really miss her too!

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Saturday I was ready for some me time so I got on my bike and rode the trail on a cloudy morning. I found this little guy moving fast as ever on the trail.

Saturday we headed on over to Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa for a group camping with our school. It was a great weekend away and perfect timing to get away. We stopped off at Petaluma for some delicious pie for lunch both savory and sweet. For dinner it was a potluck and I made a mexican inspired black bean salad which disappeared quickly.

As the group site was booked up when we decided to go we stayed at this beautiful cabin for $98 a night (including reservation fees) – in the pics you can see the interior with a bunk bed and a double bed so it fit the 4 or us perfectly. Friends of ours joined in the fun and camped next door, so a total of 8 people can stay at this spot. There were super cool details, with solar lights on the balcony, a little broom cupboard, a table for your goods plus a seat for your bags so it was super spacious inside. We sat out on the balcony in the morning and enjoyed a mug of oatmeal with mixed nuts and maple syrup watching the hawk hanging out in the tree.

Before we left we went on down to the lake for a swim as it was a hot day and met an evil swan guarding the canoes, kayaks and SUP boards. The kids enjoyed the cool water and if you were there all day you can hang out at the water park for $10.

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We are now back in our regular routine of feeding the chickens and doing the chores each week, it was so good to see the little ladies out and about dust bathing in the sunshine.

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Back to mama time and time in the kitchen I made this delicious crumble with coconut whipped cream and nuts. It feels so good to be free with my time and I am thankful for the time I had with my work but I really appreciated to be a master of my own time now.

 

Little bit of this and that!

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There has been some good food around of late and the day I really love during the week is Taco Tuesday with the easy meal of opening a box of frozen fish putting it in the oven, getting some tortillas on the grill and making a quick slaw with the food processor grating attachment. They really save me on a Tuesday when I have come home from work and have exercised and I am starving. So my diet is now officially over after 90 days to tone my body and I feel fit and healthy, my recovery after exercise is way better plus I know how to eat to feel full and that is to eat every 3 hours. For a healthy snack, I eat whole foods such as Greek yoghurt and fruit and for lunch a protein, grain and salad – I discovered that whole grains are not the enemy they keep me sustained for a period of time. My pants are looser and I am sleeping very well, especially with the addition of golden milk (which I found in Australia a couple of years ago!) to help with sleep. It has been great to get into a routine each day of work, exercise, cook dinner and study/catch up on chores and bed. Sometimes exercise can be so hard, but it is so worth it as it makes me feel so much better and able to handle whatever weirdness is going on around me.

 

At work, the kids in the Kindergarten class have been studying bees and they had a visit from the legendary beekeeper Deb from Girlzwurk it was wonderful to meet her and give her a hug for all the amazing work she is doing with rescuing bees! She said she has around 3 million bees at her property up in the Saratoga hills – amazing! It has been an incredible experience for the kids to learn about bees and this week they will be presenting their information in a play for the school to enjoy!

 

This is artwork from the 1st-grade class that was created with our art teacher Jess – the children were inspired by what they made for the village project. Each piece has turned out beautifully!

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Finally, over the weekend we got to enjoy some summer heat and be out in the garden and I found some of these flowers growing on the fence with a huge stash of little passionfruits growing on the vine and it looks like a bumper crop this year! They are such amazing flowers, it is the perfect attractant for bees.

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While I have been writing my reflection for my 3rd and final assignment for this teaching period, my daughter and my hubby were making Pusheen doughnuts in the kitchen and this is how they turned out! They had a fun time making them but I somehow feel that you need that thin synthetic chocolate to coat these things, the melted chocolate became weird as my hubby learnt a lesson about putting water into melted chocolate as it thickens it up! Still, I think this is a good effort for the first time of making fancy doughnuts 😀

Comfort food week

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Taco Tuesday

As I have to make the most of my time these days with working full time I am either doing a bunch of cooking at one time or prepping for the dishes ahead of the week. A couple of weeks ago our Community Support Agriculture (CSA) box was taken from our front doorstep and found in the next block of apartments near the carpark with most of the fruit taken out of it and left with some vegetables and the dozen free range eggs I ordered. This was confusing as I thought OK this person is vegan as they do not eat eggs and enjoy fruit?!? Due to this shenanigans, I have had to have my delivery changed to my hubby’s workplace on a Thursday which means the fresh food and veggies come at the end of the week when I am totally knackered and it is hard to find the energy to cook. So this weekend, as I had a little bit of time I did a batch cooking experiment and whipped up a quiche with a couscous base, a pumpkin soup, apple crumble and baked eggplant. I have many kitchen hacks that are super helpful for worknight dinners, and now that I am working, I need a meal either heated up or ready in 30 minutes or less.

Our fave since I started work in August has been Taco Tuesday where a box of frozen battered fish, corn tortillas, a slaw – easily made at home calling upon the food processor to chop and guacamole is a hit with the kids for a super simple weeknight dinner. My guac is a couple of avocados, lime juice, cubed tomato, salt and pepper and is delicious!

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Eggplant Parma

With the colder weather now that fall is finally happening I have wanted to turn on the oven and cook up a storm. So with the baked eggplant, I made a tasty eggplant parmigiana that I used to have at the local pub with a nice cold one at the end of a workday! This one was super easy with sliced baked eggplant and layered with cheese, a mozzarella or tasty cheese works well with a rich veggie-laden tomato sauce. For extra protein, I have added refried beans to this sauce, and it cooked up into a loved gooey eggplant dish that only my hubby and I will eat as the kids will say, “Ewww eggplant!” Still, this will work for a lovely lunch as well and its better than eating all the babaganoush that I usually make when eggplant is in the house.

 

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Collard green enchiladas

I had a bunch of collard greens sitting in the fridge from last Thursdays delivery, and I usually make wraps with lots of raw ingredients wrapped in a bright green collard green leaf and its refreshing on a warm day, but with this colder weather I experimented and make Collard green enchiladas. The idea is to take some leftover rice or quinoa and refried beans with a tasty tomato sauce and top it all off with grated cheese.

Collard Green Enchiladas

Bunch of Collard Greens (stems removed with a sharp knife)
Bottle of Pasta Sauce or any Red sauce
Can of refried beans
Cooked rice or quinoa
Grated tasty cheese or mozzarella

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Blanch Collard green leaves in boiling water, leave on a plate to cool.
  3. Prepare your red sauce with added vegetables like grated carrot and cabbage.
  4. Add your refried beans and keep them intact – the consistency has to be somewhat thick.
  5. In a square Pyrex dish, coat the bottom with some red sauce and start preparing the collard green enchiladas (have a plate handy, so the sauce is not all on the stovetop!)
  6. Use the whole leaf of a collard green folded in half and add the rice or quinoa on the leaf top with refried beans, red sauce mix and arrange in the Pyrex dish.
  7. Top with grated tasty cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until brown on top.
  8. Enjoy!

 

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Salmon and Vegetable Pie

I am quite a fan of savoury pies as I have had to make my own here as there are not many places that serve a savoury pie here in the USA. In Australia, I can go to a cafe and get a lovely veggie quiche and salad for lunch but here the things I miss I have had to make, so I have become quite competent in making quiche at home and usually is my go-to dish for a dinner party. The favourite book for my pastry is A Year of Pies and has many pastry recipes at the beginning of the book. I usually make the pastry with a shortening and butter mix, and it is delicious with the Spinach Impossible pie recipe I use as the pie filling either with spinach and feta or a salmon and vegetable. This pie was a bit of a hack as I did not make the time to whip up the pastry in my food processor, instead I cooked up some couscous and used that as a base for this pie. I felt it worked for a quick Sunday dinner and my family was ravenous after a day at the ranch laying concrete in the chicken coop! Oh and for dessert I made an Apple Crumble with a topping of coconut, brown sugar, oats, flour, butter, walnuts and spices. Another recipe fave of mine from a book I found at the local bookstore called Wholefood – 300 Recipes to Restore, Nourish and Delight.

A friend asked me to add some recipes to the blog, so I thought this week was an excellent opportunity after the excitement of Halloween. I really am having to really rely on kitchen hacks and prep in advance with this full-time work thing, and it works really well as I can never predict how a week will unfold, there could be many meetings after work, or I could be home early, who knows? This is where easy to prep recipes save the day! The other excuse I have is I use the kitchen as a place to create as I feel now with cooking and making meal plans since my son was born (12 years ago) I have quite a repertoire of recipes to draw upon. The kitchen is an excellent place to experiment, and most of all make wholesome meals for the family. Enjoy your week and eat well 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art and New Discoveries

As our class will be going on a field trip to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens next month our Atelierista (Art Specialist) bought in some cacti for the kids to practice their observational drawing. They used Indian ink and pastel, to apply the ink the kids used a variety of brushes, plastic forks and skewers.

A Problem of the Month in maths was this worksheet looking at the patterns in bowling pins and using repeating patterns to work out how many pins were set up. It is interesting how the kids approached this with their super cute drawings, most of them getting messier and messier at each line of the x pattern. More math resources for the classroom for working in small groups and coming together as a math congress to discuss their findings in the end.

After assembly this week the whole school all sang a song to the birds – yes this is the whole school including the teachers and the specialists. It was a cute little song I am sure the birds really enjoyed! We all danced in a circle around the labyrinth near the upper playground, it is such a wonderful place to work!

My discoveries this week were overnight oats and how good they are as a study snack! All I did was get this recipe from Oh She Glows Every Day by Angela Liddon, I store it in the fridge adding fresh fruit and coconut to the bowl for the healthiest snack ever.

Apple Pie Overnight Oats
(this is my slacker version adapted from the cookbook)

1 cup oats
1.5 cups cashew milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, to taste
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Small pinch of fine sea salt
1 Fuji apple unpeeled – chopped up finely
2 tablespoons chia seeds
Ground Allspice
Ground Ginger

I just used a large mason jar put all the ingredients in there gave it a shake and left it for the morning and the next day and the day after, it keeps a few days in the fridge and is a great snack anytime!

The avocado with Siracha is sitting atop a super easy recipe for baked zucchini patties from the Vitamix cookbook I found at the library.

I love the library and one of the books I found there this week was this amazing Lebanese cookbook, and it made me so hungry just looking through it. If only I could get decent Lebanese food here like I do back home in Melbourne!! The good thing about working full-time is discovering shortcuts to eating well and the best place to find good recipes is at the local library, go Mountain View Public Library you are my best friend 😀

 

NaBloPoMo – Day 27 – Making Desserts and Fall cleaning the house!

Today was a day of catching up on so many things as the only thing on the schedule was my exercise class and a playdate in the afternoon. I decided to get a start on my Thanksgiving desserts for tomorrow! I completed the vegan chocolate mousse with chopped hazelnuts on top and put them all in little mason jars as we are going to visit our friends in Oakland, perfect for travel! I also prepped the pastry for the pear tart which I will bake tomorow and for the topping I made this very tasty cashew cream that was so easy – dates are such a super ingredient. I see many more in my future especially with  homemade granola bars that taste like Lara Bars – yum!

Hazelnut topped vegan chocolate mousse 

52 week project – Sri Lankan cookbook – Coconut sambal

Today I am attempting a Coconut Sambol which I plan to have with Cauliflower Fritters. We shall see how it all turns out…

I will post a pic or two when I take them…

1. Soak Desiccated Coconut in Cow’s milk for a while (1/2 pkt or more if you like).

2.  In blender mix in 1 diced onion, 2 green chillies & 1 large tomato.

3. When done add chilli powder (1 1/2 teaspoons or less according to your taste), 2 tablespoons vinegar, cracked pepper (as you desire) & Maldive Fish (2 tablespoons powdered which has been done in a blender).

Add all this to the Desiccated Coconut which has been soaked (as above).

4. Lastly add the lot back into the blender and mix well and when spoon it into what you require. The rest into plastic containers & you can freeze this!!

Ingredients for the coconut sambol

Coconut Sambal – Veggie Style

1/2 cup coconut soaked in 1 tablespoon milk
1/2 diced onion
1 tomato
1 spring onion (instead of green chilli – I was serving this to my kids)
1/2 lemon
Chilli Powder to taste
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (as a salty substitute for Maldive Fish)
1tablespoon white wine vinegar
Pepper
Sea Salt

Soak the coconut while you prepare the other ingredients then mix gently together in a bowl and serve with rice and a vegetable dish. Add more chilli if you wish.

Coconut Sambal – vegetarian style

So the outcome was close but not as tasty as I remember it – of course due to the lack of chilli! Still if I tried the Maldive Fish yes it would be the same but I eat fish though I will have to research the sustainability of the Maldive Fish for cooking. It was a cooling substitute with the papadums and my friends special recipe sack of a vegetarian pulav was a perfect addition.

The Recipe Sack – Vegetable Pulav was super easy and very flavourful

Coconut Sambal, Cauliflower Fritters, Vegetable Pulav & Papadums

With the addition of the rice, papadums and cauliflower fritters (recipe link above) to the meal we enjoyed it and felt very content after such a feast. The cauliflower fritters took ages to cook as they were fried with a flour, egg batter (I do  not eat fried foods often at all!) – it really needed extra spice like chilli and some warmer flavours like cumin, coriander, ginger and garlic to add a depth of flavour. This was a whole head of cauliflower so it looks like it is Indian food for dinner again tonight. Add some tomato base flavour and chickpeas to the cauliflower and some Lemon Rice, perfect!