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.

 

Grateful for all we have

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My exercise and eating well regime have been going really well as my meal plans are simpler now with eating more salads and knowing how to balance it with protein and grains. Tonight’s¬†couscous salad of watercress, raw beets, grated carrots, radish, tomato and my new fave plant protein Beyond Meat “chicken” strips made from soy and pea protein topped with a miso chilli dressing so perfect for a meatless Monday. If I were to go vegan this is a perfect meal, one day I will get there! Still eating seasonal, local and organic adds so much variety to your diet and it is even better to get the vegetables direct from the farm.

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So I went out for Mothers Day celebrations on Saturday rather than Sunday as I am not a fan of crowds or people. I had a study break from my paper and went out for lunch to Terun on California Avenue in Palo Alto and afterwards, I went shoe shopping for my mothers day gift. Oh boy, what a treat to find such comfortable and beautifully made shoes, I saw these on a parent at the school I work at and said, “where do you find them” and she told me! These shoes are handmade in Israel and they are the most comfortable and light shoe to wear, I really had a hard choice choosing so I decided on the blue flats as I am looking for alternative shoes in my shoe collection to take over the Camper shoes that I have loved over the years. I get a feeling that from now on any spare $ I have will be spent on these Jafa shoes, they are the best! I mean the colours of the boots are stunning and that is what I have my eye on in the future ūüėÄ

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I enjoyed this vodka cocktail for lunch with beet gnocchi, eggplant balls, a Neapolitan style pizza with pear and gruyere plus a farro dish with calamari Рwhat an amazing feast!

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At work former students of 2nd grade built this portable see-saw at tinkering, it is super cool and I see the kids hang out at recess or during class time for some air time outside. It sways on a PVC pipe and a chunk of wood – superb design.

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This week after a week of being appreciated it was time to be grateful for the wonderful year I have had. At the end of last summer, I began a temporary substitute teacher assistant role which initially was going to be 6 months but carried on for the school year where I got to meet another two lively cohorts of children in Kinder and 1st. I am truly grateful for this opportunity of working alongside some incredible educators. Today I was notified they don’t have a role for me next year so I only have 19 days left in this role until Summer vacation. After that it is a holiday in Australia¬†to visit family and friends and then back here for one more year of student mama life and organising our move back home, it will surely be exciting!

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I usually go walking every week around the neighbourhood and it has been beautiful lately with all the spring flowers everywhere, I especially love the orange California poppies. This beauty is growing from a succulent and it is super tall and so pink it catches my eye each time I walk past РI managed to capture this in the evening light the other day, early morning would be best I think!

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Oh, and as I was cleaning out the classroom of library books to return I found this inspiring story and did a read aloud to the kinder kids. It is a story of Julia Butterfly Hill who lived in a redwood for over 2 years to see it preserved for all time. It was such an inspiring story inspired from the novel which I have to get my hands on sometime to ready over the summer I think! Which brings me to the Tarkine in Tasmania Рa place where I visited many moons ago with The Wilderness Society. Patagonia has made a film about giving this incredible forest sanctuary for all time World Heritage Protection. Heres to making that happen as I really would love to take my children there when we go home as it is such an experience for them to visit an ancient rainforest where you feel so small.

Slow like a snail

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Back to routine last week and man it flew past which was good as the week back to reality after a break is always a tough one. My little exercise routine is going great as I have been doing this for the last 2 months now – counting calories, exercising for 30 minutes every day with a rest day on Saturday – I will ride my bike or if I feel like people go to a yoga class. To be honest, I am peopled out by the weekend as a teacher you are on all day and with people all day so by the end of the day/week I just want to chill ideally solo! My strength / HIIT workouts have been amazing and every other day I walk or do a low-intensity workout and the exercise really helps with stress and feeling good for the week ahead. Admittedly, by 10pm it is bedtime after a big day.

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The other big element in my life is studying for my education degree online from Swinburne University in Melbourne. I was busting through my last essay and I received my results and I managed to score a high distinction,  I had no idea I would actually get such a mark when I had crammed and written that paper in a week! I am now working on my second paper for the course focussing on the different philosophies of education such as Montessori, Reggio and Waldorf/Steiner. The research is fascinating so I am motoring along this week as we have consolidation week so time to hunker down and get some essay planning done.

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Tonight I was inspired by an heirloom tomato to make a salad of grilled asparagus, cucumber, celery, fresh basil and quinoa with a dressing of balsamic vinegar, lemon and olive oil. Sitting on top of the salad is a very underrated protein addition tuna fish topped with mayo and capers, yummo this really packs an excellent protein feast with the quinoa and tuna.

As I am building lean muscle it has been very tricky for me to get enough protein in each day so Naked Pea protein drink has been a great saviour with 27g of protein per serving which is excellent for a vegetarian/pescaterian. Also, tempeh and seitan are good sources of protein and really I should be staying away from the vegetarian bacon but I am craving salt!

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Here is my buddy Bella laying on top of a pillow my other little bud used to love (my boy Mackaroni RIP) Рshe is way more of a homebody now that she is alone. One day I will get another friend for her but until we leave the USA it is hard to justify the costs of shipping animals back to Australia. She does get a lot of love from all of us, even though she can be very aloof, though I think that is what we love cat lovers like Рthe independence of our feline friends!

Farewell Arts Focus for another year!

Last week it was our final week of Arts Focus with some very talented sewers from our school. I was really impressed with this owl fleece hat – I think this student has set the bar high for the next session! The quilt we made was given to our school principal as a gift for her baby, here is a detail of it – embroidered by one of the students.

This 2017-2018 session we brought in some new projects such as the yarn octopus and felt emoji. For the second session, we introduced the button tree to fill in some time as we had a lot of older grade kids (5th grade choose what class they would like to do as their final class). My co-lead also made the kids get fancy with their pillow making which is always a plus to see the kids stretch their creativity. The pipe cleaner doll and embroidery on the bottom left was made by a kinder girl who sewed such beautiful stitches. A favourite of mine is the platypus embroidery sewn by one of the 5th-grade girls in the class.

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At the school where I work the students have been busy making a dollhouse for the auction coming up this weekend. The kids started with making little dolls of themselves and in true Reggio¬†fashion, it evolved into something magical – this dollhouse. With some help from their science and art specialists, this all came together. I am helping them with pipe cleaner dolls this week to give away with the house when it goes up for auction this Saturday evening. Tomorrow we will wrap the yarn around the pipe cleaners and define the bodies of all these dolls lazing around in the playroom of the house ūüėÄ

It was back to University over the weekend and what better way to get the brain going on this clean eating diet I am currently on is to have grilled sardines over sauteed kale and roasted garlic topped with watermelon radish and tomato – very tasty with a dash of sriracha.

The annual Holi celebration my friend celebrates each year was a lot of fun on Sunday. We were very lucky to have the sunshine and warm weather after our all out splash of colour followed by buckets of water.

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To add to this weeks collection of food I am looking at lentils as a high protein food so I needed to discover new recipes to eat them and this came to mind after enjoying lentils in Melbourne last year.

Black Lentils with Grilled Asparagus topped with watercress and goat cheese salad

1 cup black lentils (cooked)
1 small onion (cut finely)
Olive oil
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon Smoked paprika
1 tablespoon miso mixed in a small amount of stock (a thick consistency)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Bunch of watercress
Tomato
Goat cheese (as much as you would like!)

Method

  1. While waiting for the lentils put the asparagus in some oil on the grill.
  2. Simmer onion on a skillet in a little oil until transparent, add lentils.
  3. Mix onions and lentils and add diced tomatoes.
  4. Mix through miso and stock through the lentils and add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Finish with watercress, tomato and goat cheese.

A quick little Valentine gift

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With Valentine’s day around the corner, I had a bit of a task on my hands to make last-minute valentines for my Kinder and 1st-grade students. So here is a quickie tutorial on making these cute little wooden bead heart necklaces.

Supplies needed: a stash of wooden beads – 25mm (about 1″), watercolour paint, brushes, skewers, a tall mason jar, sharpie, concreters string (from OSH) and Mod Podge.

Paint your beads all the colours of the rainbow using a watercolour wash on each bead, use a skewer to hold the beads in place. When the paint is dry draw a heart with sharpie and seal with mod podge on aluminium foil. The beads are ready to be strung and given to the kiddos as little Valentine gifts from their teacher! A super cool and somewhat quick project, I did have help with quality testing from my 9-year-old daughter – lucky!

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This is a super cute kinder card my co-teacher came up with using tissue paper squares, glue and then cutting the card to make a card for their parents.

These are observational watercolour drawings made by the 1st-grade class for a card for their parents Рsuch beautiful watercolours created.

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This was another kinder card using sequins, a sticker and a heart doily – I really love seeing what the kids make when given the opportunity to craft.

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This is an invitation for making the paper plate heart sewing with yarn craft for the 1st-grade class. All you need is some yarn, paper plates prepped with a heart shape and a hole punch and yarn needles. This is the perfect craft to practice sewing with a large needle and ready punched holes.

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And sewing last week with my volunteer class at Stevenson Elementary was making felt emoji keyrings – featured is one make by a 5th grader. We precut the circle and the kids can embellish whatever emoji they like from our emoji poster for ideas or create their own.

And I thought last week was pretty quiet with the 100th day of school – the Kinders bought in 100 of different¬†things like coins, seeds, Perler¬†beads, pom poms and these two with beads and little tiny felt houses. I remember when I did it with my kids it was 100 buttons stuck on some cardstock, maybe I was too overwhelmed with the two kids to be super creative at the time ūüėČ

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Again the amazing ramen recipe from Minimalist Baker and this time with a poached egg and seaweed – an absolute favourite at my place each week, especially in the winter.

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This is the Japanese Pizza from 101 cookbooks with a watermelon radish salad with a side of chanterelles and homemade miso mayo drizzled over the top – such a divine meal for the mushroom lover.

And I thought last week was pretty quiet – checking over all of this it seemed like quite a busy week for me, oh and I got some sewing done on the weekend too as I was inspired by some love bird fabric I found at FabMo. It is so good to sit at my sewing machine again ūüėÄ we have a break from school/work next week so time to organise the study/sewing room and do some sewing.

 

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 Р300 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 ūüėÄ

 

 

 

 

 

 

52 week project – Sri Lankan Cookbook – Potato Cutlets

My mum used to make these potato cutlets with tin tuna fish and fennel and they were so good! Though for this version I am trying a vegetarian alternative. The kids really loved them with a canola mayo and I had it with a mango pickle and it was the perfect accompaniment.

Delicious potato cutlets with avocado salad and mango chutney

Potato Cutlets

1 tsp sale
1 lb potatoes, boiled in microwave and then mashed.
Black Pepper
1 egg for cutlets

Breadcrumbs for coating

1 egg beaten

Filling

1 onion
1 cup grated cheese
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup coriander

Canola oil for frying

1. Prepare potato and cook in the microwave till the consistency is ready for mash.
2. Finely chop onion and put in a large bowl.
3. Cool mashed potato in fridge or on counter.
4. While potato is cooling prepare the filling – and add to the onion in the large bowl.
5. When potato is cool enough add to the large bowl with the filling ingredients.
6. Add an egg to the filling and potato mixture.
7. Work on consistency to get a ball that holds together in your hands.
8. Dip in beaten egg and then breadcrumbs and flatten.
9. Cook cutlets on moderate heat in the canola oil until brown on both sides.
10. Serve with mango chutney and salad or whatever you like really!

52 week project – Sri Lankan Cookbook – Mock-Stringhopper Pilau

Yes this Sunday was a lovely relaxing day and well needed I must add as the dreaded lurgy going around come to visit me in the form of a cold ūüė¶ Anyway one must keep going and chill as much as possible in between projects. This week I wanted to recreate a Rice Noodle Dish my mum made which was always served with a meat curry and I can taste it now – not so keen on the meat side of things though!

Well I couldn’t get a hold of her to get her recipe, so I called on the help of another Sri Lankan I see everyday – my daughters teacher Ms S. She called it a stringhopper pilau – I found a recipe in Charmaine Solomon’s book of Asian Food – this is an encyclopaedia of cooking Asian dishes, such a great book that I should be referring to more often!

Well here it is with a couple of modifications as I was missing ingredients and had to cheat a bit on the curry by using a Jalfrezi simmer sauce which was delicious with sauteed seitan.

Mock-Stringhopper Pilau

Little quarters of egg on top add another element of flavour

227g/8oz rice noodles (I used Annie Chun’s Maifun Brown Rice noodles)
sesame oil

60g/2 oz butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 brown onion, finely sliced
curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon saffron strands
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 egg, hard-boiled peeled and quartered (should be 4)
90g/3 oz raw cashews fried until golden
1 carrot, grated
1 cup cooked and drained peas
1/2 cup sultanas, soaked in water

1. Boil rice vermicelli noodles for 2-4 mins till tender and save for later put some sesame oil to keep them from sticking together.

2. In a large skillet heat butter and oil Fry the sliced onions and curry leaves, until onion is deep golden. I cooked these on low so they didn’t get too dark.

3. Add peas, grated carrot, fried cashews and soaked sultanas to the onion mix.

3. Toast saffron strands in a dry pan for lese than a minute, turn onto a saucer when cool and crisp, crush with the back of a spoon and dissolve in a tablespoon of hot water. Add saffron, turmeric, cardamom, salt and pepper to the onions and stir well. Add rice noodles and toss together with tongs until the noodles are evenly coloured yellow. Taste and check seasoning.

4. Serve straight out of the cast iron pan with egg quarters on top. Serve hot with a curry (which follows).

Stringhopper Pilau with the Seitan Jalfrezi

Seitan Jalfrezi

1 packet Seitan strips
Flour
Paprika
Olive Oil

1 bottle Seeds of Change Jalfrezi Simmer Sauce

1. Dredge Seitan in Flour and Paprika till evenly coated.

2. Saute seitan till golden brown.

3. Add to Jalfrezi sauce on low simmer till hot.

Easy Sunday Dinner!

The book of Asian Food

52 week project – Sri Lankan cookbook – Yellow Rice and Curry

This week has been busy with sewing for a show I am doing in a couple of weeks – so there has been plenty of me and my sewing machine time in between everything else. I scored an amazing array of fabric at the last FabMo distribution which I will make into aprons, placemats and tote bags.

This week I am going to try a Sri Lankan Seitan with cinnamon, ginger and coconut.
(It should be chicken but as I am vegetarian – no animals for me!)

A one bowl meal – divine

Sri Lankan Seitan Curry with Yellow Rice 

3 cloves garlic, crished
1 tbs grated young ginger
50ml lime juice
4 fresh long green chillies

3 tbs olive oil

450g seitan strips
1 tablespoon paprika or more to taste
1/2 cup flour 

1 large white onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp ground turmeric
3 green cardamom pods, crushed
4 cloves (or 1 teaspoon ground cloves)
2 cinnamon quills
1tsp curry powder

270ml thick coconut cream
Corainder leaves, to serve

1. Pound garlic, ginger and lime juice and 2 of the chillies in a mortar and pestle or blend in a small food processor, until a paste forms.

2. Dredge seitan strips into flour and paprika. Saute dredged seitan in 1 tbs olive oil – set aside for later.

3. Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan at low temperature. Add onion, turmeric, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon quills and cook for 8-10 minutes or until onion is transparent. Add garlic/ginger/chilli paste and 150ml coconut milk and combine well. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Seitan sauteed after being dredged with flour and paprika – yum!

4. Add coconut cream, sautéed seitan and remaining 2 chillies whole and simmer until seitan is warm Рaround 5 minutes. Season, scatter with coriander leaves and serve.

Seitan curry finished with fresh coriander

Again I served this with a yellow rice – this time trying the recipe with mushroom stock… Still the flavour is not the same as my Mum’s using a chicken stock cube though it was somewhat flavoursome. I have had suggestions to cook the rice in a homemade vege stock that has spices and onion as the base with fennel fronds and pea skins with a bit of stock concentrate added for extra flavour. Let’s see how that goes next time I try the yellow rice?

Stil the seitan curry with the paprika was even better the next day as all currys get tastier with age РI would say that this was not my mums chicken curry flavour though having to omit certain ingredients I will have to deal with it having my signature vegetarian twist.