Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Homemade Hummus and Half Marathon Training

Aren't they beautiful? We purchased these at the markets on the weekend to decorate the table for the high tea. I love having fresh flowers in the house, there is something about the life they bring to the table and the fleeting beauty in our presence that just freshens the atmosphere.

These ladies and gentlemen are tomatoes from my vegetable garden! I can't wait to chop one of these up for my dinner tonight. I hope they have soaked up a little of the last summer sunshine, I could definitely use it to brighten up this wintery evening.

Last night I set out to make my very own hummus, a feat that I had never accomplished before because buying it always seemed so much easier. But as I was walking yesterday afternoon (more on that in a minute) all I could think about was going home and creating some yummy chunky hummus to have for my dinner.
It was so easy! I don't think that I will ever rely on the store bought version again.
Into the trusty blender went a (drained) can of chickpeas, 1 (enormous) garlic clove, 1 squeeze of lemon, 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of tahini paste and about 1/4 cup of water. Then I blended to the consistency I wanted.
I practically licked the inside of the blender.
Who am I kidding, I did lick the inside of the blender. It was fantastic!

I love this little garlic jar, perfect house for my favourite seasoning.

The finished product. Wonderful texture, with some whole chickpeas still in the mix. I would love to experiment with some different beans and flavourings as well.

My very dunkable dinner. Steamed broccoli with left over roasted pumkpin, sweet potato and carrot, along with three gluten free sundried tomato and olive mini muffins leftover from the high tea on Saturday. Recipe below.

Gluten Free Sundried Tomato and Olive Mini Muffins

1 1/2 cups gluten free self raising flour
1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
10 sundried tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped black olives
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius and spray a 24 hole mini muffin tin with olive oil spray.
2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add dried herbs, tomatoes and olives and mix well.
3. Beat olive oil and eggs together and then whisk in milk.
4. Stir into the flour mixture and divide amongst the muffin tins.
5. Bake for about 10 minutes or until puffed and golden on top.

These muffins are great served warm or cold and also freeze very well. I froze those that remained from the high tea on the same day they were baked in order to preserve their freshness, they have been defrosting very well for dinners all week.

Now, a little half marathon update.
Last week my training was delayed because I was feeling a little under the weather. Instead of giving up on exercising altogether I decided to just walk instead of running. I got scared this week that I wouldn't be able to get back to running again, that somehow taking a week off would somehow sap my ability to run at all. I know this is a silly notion but this half marathon is something really important to me. I sense that the other side of those 21.0975 kilometers I will have learnt something about myself, or that they mark some right of passage for me from the girl I used to be to the woman I am trying to become.
I was relieved this morning when I got back in the saddle (well, on the treadmill belt anyway) and managed to complete 9 kilometers. So now, I'm back on the road and there are only four and half weeks to go until the Gold Coast!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday, super pretty salad and recent really good things

Today I did nothing. Not something I am particularly good at anymore but after sleeping in until 11.30 this morning I decided that my body had deserved the rest. I also feel like the cold I have been staving off all week might finally have left me alone. Which is good news because the Gold Coast Half Marathon is only 5 weeks away and I had to delay my training a whole week because of the flu.
Doing nothing today actually felt really, really good. I don't think that I could do nothing more than occasionally but on this occasion, I really enjoyed it.

My super pretty salad from tonight consisted of roasted pumpkin, carrot and sweet potato along with some blanched asparagus, baby spinach, cranberries, chickpeas and a sprinkling of both feta and flaked almonds.
Very pretty, very yummy.

After dinner my darling sister presented me with one of her miniature brown sugar pound cake cupcakes with browned butter frosting. Heaven, the size of a tablespoon.

Other recent wonderful things have included:

The high tea I hosted yesterday for a few friends.

These roses that I pass every morning on my walk to work.

Some beauty in a recent rain storm.

Here is to the beautiful moments that this week is sure to bring.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dessert at Mud Dessert Bar

Last night we celebrated the beautiful Casey's 24th birthday at Mud Dessert Bar in Bulimba. Tapas for dinner and then this beauty for dessert.

1 scoop raspberry sorbet, 1 scoop pistachio ice cream and gorgeous chocolate sauce. The toffee creation on top was lovely dipped in the remainder of the chocolate sauce.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, May 27, 2011

Knowing (and owning) your weakness makes you stronger

Today I was on a little after lunch ramble to enjoy the lovely autumn weather outside and to procure some postprandial caffeine and I ended up in the hospital, which got me thinking.
Don't panic.
Let me explain.
I actually work at a university which shares a campus with the hospital so there is nothing to panic about, my lunchtime walkabouts usually result in a trip to the hospital, or the nearby sushi train.
This particular hospital was the site for one of my university internships for my dietetics degree, and it played host to ten of the most challenging weeks of my life so far.
When I embarked on my studies in nutrition and dietetics I had my heart set on being a paediatric dietitian who specialised in oncology, my wishes were granted when I ended up interning in both the adult's and children's oncology wards. This was supposed to be my dream come true, I was supposed to find my niche there, my calling in life, my vocation.
I learned a lot while I was on this practicum, however I didn't find my niche, my calling or my vocation; instead I was confronted by a series of revelations about my own weaknesses and that is what I wanted to talk about in today's post.

Understand that I am not talking about vices (chocolate, cookbooks, shoes) or things that make you weak in the knees (yes, my West coast boy I am looking at you), I am talking about those parts of yourself that are fundamentally delicate; those parts of your soul, heart and mind that are like butterflies wings and can't quite take the strain that other parts can.

The lightbox of ten weeks in the hospital showed me that I didn't have the strength of soul, mind or heart to be a paediatric oncology dietitian, in fact I didn't really have it in me to work in a hospital at all. They exposed two major weaknesses that revealed to me that my dream would break me into pieces if I kept pursuing it.
Firstly, I cannot 'leave things behind at the office'. Everyone I interact with, each patient, each parent, each colleague becomes a part of me and I worry about them and wonder about their problems and hope for the best in their lives. Not an easy burden to shoulder when you are working in the children's cancer ward. My supervisor's advised me to just 'shut things out' and to 'not let it get to me', sorry, no can do.
Secondly, I am empathetic, not sympathetic. There is a difference; sympathy is being able to recognise and understand someone else's feelings whereas empathy is experiencing another's feelings vicariously. Pretty heavy stuff if you are an over-thinker like me.
Please, don't think that I am some overly emotional, uber sensitive person, I am just truly a 'people person' and I love to hear people's stories.
When I realised that my dream wasn't going to become a reality because I wasn't capable of carrying some of it's burdens I was lost. The tears I cried into my pillow every night after a day at the hospital weren't just for the stories I had heard that day, they were also for a vision of the future that would no longer eventuate.

Now a few years later, I look back with clearer vision and a more healed mind and I can see the lessons in my weaknesses, I have come to own those parts of me that are weak, and embrace them instead of thinking I can somehow 'fix' them. I have learned that the parts of me that are delicate are actually pieces of me that make me stronger in other places.
The weaknesses have always been there, they make up parts of who I am as a person and in someways help me to be a better person when I understand them, when I own them.
Because I cannot leave things behind at the office and let other people's lives put marks on my own I am exposed to so many different view points, lifestyles and choices, and I can understand so many different types of people, even if I don't necessarily agree with them.
Because I am empathetic I am able to get an inside view of people's lives and support them, or laugh with them, or cry with them when they need it.
These aren't bad personality traits to have, but they mean that there are some things that I need to be aware of; I need to be mindful of switching off after the day is done, I need to make sure I don't let other people's moods drag me down, and I need to make sure that I ask myself if I am making decisions based on how I truly feel.

Your weaknesses shouldn't limit you, they should not define you.
You are stronger in more ways than you are delicate and once you own the fragile pieces of yourself you are essentially sturdier, you can embrace who you are as a person as a whole, rather than just the pieces that fit perfectly.
Think of your soul as a tree. The weakest parts are your leaves, they might get torn off in a storm, eaten by birds or fall to the ground while the trunk and branches are made of much heartier stuff. However, those leaves provide the tree with nourishment and colour. It takes both the trunk and the leaves to make up the whole tree. Both strength and weakness to make up a whole soul.
So when you are confronted by an event in life that exposes a delicate part of your soul take note and instead of letting it limit you, define you, confine you; find the strength behind the weakness, accept them both and love the whole tree, rather than just the trunk.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chou de Bruxelles

Ah yes, chou de Bruxelles, more commonly known as the Brussels Sprout. I have a confession about this tiny green cabbage that I would like to share with you. As a dietitian it is part of my job to promote the consumption of two fruits and five vegetables per day, and as a vegetarian the majority of my diet is made up of the aforementioned produce (with some chocolate thrown in for good measure). However, with all these vegetable-centric lifestyle factors there are still two vegetables that I try to avoid like the plague: cauliflower (cooked, I like it raw) and Brussels sprouts.
That was until recently when for some reason I began to crave the chou de Bruxelles. Each week at the markets I would ponder a bag of baby sprouts before turning and walking away, I didn't want this craving to end badly with a pile of sodden steamed or boiled sprouts and the stink of cabbage to taint my memory.
So I waited, and I considered how I would really like to enjoy my Brussels sprouts. Then like a gastronomic miracle whole living came to the rescue with this recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Taking this as my inspiration I set to work on creating the Chic Chickpea version, and now I present it to you:

Chic chou de Bruxelles Bake

250g baby Brussels sprouts
1 apple
1 pear
1 red onion
10 thyme sprigs
3tbs grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with paper
  2. Core apple and pear and slice both thinly and place into a medium size bowl
  3. Halve Brussels sprouts and add to the bowl
  4. Peel onion and cut into wedges (I think I did eighths here) and add to vegetable mix
  5. Drizzle over oil and add thyme and a little salt and pepper
  6. Gently toss vegetable mix with hands to ensure it is all coated by the oil.
  7. Spread across baking tray and slide into the oven. Bake for approximately 30 minutes.
Next time I would add some chopped hazelnuts or almonds about 10 minutes from the end as some roasted nuts would compliment the flavours immensely.
I served mine with chickpeas (for moi of course) and some roasted chicken breasts (for my beloved omnivores) along with some blanched asparagus and butter beans and roasted potatoes it made for a lovely Sunday evening dinner.

Mon Petit Chou Part Deux
I had a few Brussels sprouts leftover for my dinner during the week. The markets that weekend has also yielded some Swiss brown mushrooms, my absolute favourite for their earthy and essentially "mushroomy" taste.
Into the frypan went:
A handful of Brussels sprouts, halved
6 Swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
2 large handfuls baby spinach
Small handful of hazelnuts, chopped
 I added the mushrooms and sprouts first and after they had softened I added the hazelnuts and fried this all until the nuts became fragrant. Then I tossed the spinach in along with a small amount of soy sauce to bring out the mushroom flavour and cooked until the spinach was wilted.
I  was going to add some kidney beans to the dish to get some protein into the dish, however I ate them while I was watching it all cook. Yes, I am one of those strange people who likes to eat the beans straight out of the can (please, no judging).

This past weekend was also my little sister's 21st birthday. To celebrate we had breakfast at the markets where we purchased some of these beautiful roses to decorate the tables at the restaurant where we were had a birthday breakfast party.
For Jess's party favours she baked some beautiful devil's food cupcakes from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, and then iced them with cocoa buttercream frosting and of course....sprinkles!
Happy Birthday Little Chic Chickpea! 21 years sure have gone fast.
Here's to all your wishes for the next year, and many more birthday cupcakes to come.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

First Soup of the Season

There have been signs of late; clear blue skies, crisp mornings and cloudless winter nights. All the heralds of another winter season have begun to sing in a change in the weather. One of the best things about the cooling and shortening of the days is a big pot of soup to look forward to in the evening. I find this especially comforting after a nice long run and a warming shower, this soup chases away the rest of the chill and leaves plenty of leftovers for tomorrow. 

Sweet Paprika Vegetable Soup
2tbsp olive oil
2 Brown Onions
3 Carrots
1 Large Red Capsicum
1/4 head of cabbage
2 Potatoes
2 Zucchini
1/2 cup red lentils
2 tsp Sweet paprika
2 x 400g cans tomato puree
2 Vegetable stock cubes
1 Litre of water

  1. Finely chop the onion and dice the carrots, cabbage, potatoes, capsicum and zucchini
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot, and add onion, carrot and capsicum and sprinkle over the paprika. Cook until vegetables are softened. Enjoy the fragrance of the paprika as it warms.
  3. Add the remaining vegetables, water, vegetable stock and tomato puree.
  4. Bring the soup to a boil and add the lentils.
  5. Allow soup to simmer until lentils are cooked and potato is soft, about 20-30 minutes.
  6. Spoon into bowls and serve with oat scones.

Serves 6-8. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days.

There is only one thing that can possibly elevate vegetable soup even more; scones. Here is the recipe for the oaty scones that I pulled out of the oven just in time to accompany the soup to the table.

Oat Scones
1 3/4 cups self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup quick oats
6 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
 1/2 - 2/3 cup light milk

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius  and line a baking sheet with baking paper
  2. In a medium bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, oats, salt and pepper
  3. Add butter and rub into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs
  4. Create a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add 1/2 cup of milk, stir with a flat bladed knife, adding more milk as needed to create a soft dough.
  5. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a rectangle about 1 inch high
  6. Cut rounds using a 1.5 inch diameter round cookie cutter and place on the lined baking sheet
  7. Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden.
  8. Enjoy with your soup!

This soup is even better the next day. I warmed up the leftovers and added some steamed asparagus, peas, zucchini and some chopped sundried tomato. I stirred through some canned chickpeas as well and enjoyed round two of the soup even more than the first. 

So pull out the soup pot and enjoy some home made comfort as this winter season begins.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Extraordinary Ordinary

I have a theory about happiness.
I know that in life there are so many things that contribute to being happy, but I believe that one of the key ingredients in a happy life is being present in the moment and being happy with your life as it stands today. If you can be happy today you truly own your life and you aren't waiting for happiness as an end point, it is right where you are right now.
For me, remembering to be present in the moment and appreciating what I have every day is best described by the quest for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.
It might seem foolish to some that I smile and stop to take photos of a flowering weed on the roadside, or that the smell, sight and experience of melting chocolate and cream on an autumn afternoon is one of my favourite things in life. I know that others will say that small things amuse small minds, when I am enchanted by the play of the winter morning sunlight on the skin of a pomegranate or the way the lemons in my neighbour's backyard seem ripe with afternoon sunshine and fading summer heat. If these are the things that amuse my small mind I pity the greater minds who cannot comprehend the happiness that is to be found in everyday places, and all the extraordinary experiences that await us in every moment.
 There is a little extraordinary in even the most basic of things, if you constantly wait for the grand and the brilliant to inspire happiness in your life then you miss out on all the opportunities to be happy in the times in between.
My challenge to you is to seek the extraordinary in the ordinary. Take a moment to really experience what you are doing and see the beauty in each minute you get to be alive. Notice things, use your senses, be curious about your own life, take an interest in others and love every day.
Here are some of the extraordinary things I have seen on an ordinary weekend.

Zucchini muffins (recipe here)

Saturday morning at the markets.

Preparation for sangria

Raspberry macaron shared with Mum and Jess.

My grandparents back in Denmark when they were young and in love.

Lemons (and my Dad) in our neighbour's backyard

Making chocolate fondant with Casey. How could you not see the beauty in that moment.

Remember the extraordinary surrounds us everyday, you just need to be open to experiencing it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Salad for my Queen Mum!

On Sunday we held a brunch to celebrate all the lovely mothers in my family. As I have an insatiable need for baking at the moment we held at our house and so I got to spend all of Saturday and Sunday in the kitchen!
On the baking menu:
  • Beautiful wholewheat banana bread (adapted from the wonderful Dana)

  • Blueberry muffins (thanks to 'The Joy of Vegan Baking')
  • Olive and oregano drop scones
  • Baked mini cheesecakes (not very happy with the recipe so I won't waste webspace)
As for the non-baked items we had: smoked salmon, baked chicken breasts, avocado and my Queen Mum Salad. I made this salad a few weeks ago for the Royal Wedding and I really wanted to repeat it for this celebration. Today I thought I would share the recipe for Queen Mum salad (if you can have a recipe for a salad)

Queen Mum Salad
This salad is lovely and fresh with lots of different flavours and can be tweaked a little depending on what is in season and what is in your cupboard.

Firstly, take 1 bunch of asparagus and chop off woody ends, and top and tail a large handful of green beans.
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and then add the asparagus and beans. Cook for two minutes and then remove immediately using a slotted spoon. Rinse in cold water to refresh. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Then take the following ingredients and gently toss them together in your favourite salad bowl with the prepared asparagus and beans:
  • 200 gram packet of gourmet lettuce
  • 20 green olives, cut in half
  • Small jar of baby artichokes marinated in brine
  • 1 small avocado, cubed
  • 1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup of walnut halves roughly chopped
I chose to just dress this salad very simply with a drizzle of grapeseed oil and some oil from a jar of sundried tomatoes. You can leave it naked or try your favourite vinaigrette instead.

A few weeks ago my sister and I set out for the coast early in the morning to watch the sunrise over the beach. As the sun came up that morning it blew the mist off a sea that was churning and carried an early autumn chill. I love walking along the beach in the morning, there is something in the rhythm of the waves that sets my heart to beat correctly for the rest of the day.

Footprints from the younger and older chic chickpeas

All the beautiful Chic Chickpea ladies in my family.

I am so lucky to have these beautiful women in my family, each of them has taught me so much and continues to inspire me every day. On the bottom row (from left to right): My Aunty Lone, my Mormor (Danish for grandmother) and my Mummy! On the top row (from left to right) my cousin Grace, myself and my sister Jess. I love you Mum, all that you have meant to me in the past as protector, teacher, provider, mentor, best hug giver, and cheerleader and for all that you continue to become to me, especially as our lives become so different and as our relationship grows into something new and even stronger. Thank you for everything.

So, rather a random collection today but these are the little things that have been going on in the life of the Chic Chickpea. Tomorrow I have a decadent recipe with a surprise ingredient!