Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Blendtec vs. Vitamix, what do you think?

Ever since my Thermomix foray, I've been thinking about how much I miss its blender skills.  The power of the Thermomix was one of the key elements I was looking for when I bought it, but when my other expectations fell short I decided to sell, even though it was an awesome blender. But I knew I could get a top of the range blender for around half the price of a TM.


Now that spring is here in Sydney I really want to be able to make icy smoothies at home, and almond milk and healthy sorbet.  In the last few weeks I've been doing a lot of research on blenders. I know I'm after a high powered one, I've already got a very average one sitting in my cupboard. It struggles to make banana smoothies (from fresh bananas!) so really it sits in the cupboard all the time.

Vitamix 5200

So, I've narrowed it down to a Vitamix or a Blendtec.

Both seem to have some advantages and some cons.  Vitamix seems to be the blender of choice for the green smoothie brigade, which is one of the reasons I want one. They are also much more widely available in Australia, even if they are twice the price of the States. 

But Blendtec seems to offer an easier-to-use blender, with its square base (making it easier to clean) and pre-selection buttons. I also have loved their 'will it blend?' advertisements for years and years. Check out their YouTube channel here.  They really are a brute of a machine!

Blendtec- Wildside

Price wise they are about the same. Depending on offers etc they are available for around $800.

What do you think? Have you tried out both? Or are they not worth it?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

what I've been up to, tamari almonds and chocolate chia pudding

It's been a long long time. Yes I know. Honestly I just haven't felt like blogging. My food obsession is most definitely continuing, and you can catch me much more frequently on Instagram.

After much pondering and searching I decided to buy a waffle machine for home. I LOVE IT!  Not a huge investment, think it was all of $15 from Big W. So really using it just the once made it cheaper than a breakfast at a cafe.

New runners. I'm totally in love with my bright, bright Nikes!

Green smoothie at Nourished in Avalon. Such a lovely cafe, and the new addition in Mosman, Bloom, is even more beautiful.

Feeling like salads again as Sydney has burst into spring this year. We've already had a 27 degree day and that was officially in winter. This one was fresh spinach, roasted pumpkin, Jarlsberg, sesame seeds and rocket.

Rosewater & Pistachios from Jude Blereau's new cookbook Wholefood Baking. The icing too is a healthier version too. This one contained coconut milk and rice milk, and came out fluffier than a traditional buttercream.  

I've heard the raves about Coyo for ages and have been avoiding it. I truly love dairy and yogurt in particular so I didn't see any reason to try something positioned as an 'alternative' for vegans and veggies. I was so wrong - it is the most stunning product. I only chose the plain version, and will definitely be trying the fruit and frozen ones, asap!

Oh Pimm's. I love you. Welcome back.

And I also thought I'd post a few simple recipes:

Tamari Almonds

1 1/2 cups raw whole almonds
1 Tbsp tamari
1/2 tps sea salt

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and allow to sit for at least 2 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Bake on a metal tray for 10-15 minutes, turning every 4 minutes. Make sure to check on them as nuts can get burned very quickly!

Allow to cool

These are so moorish and I can really get through so many more almonds this way over raw. Although I do love those too.  They are also so easy to do, I won't be paying double for tamari almonds in the shops again!

I would also recommend doubling or tripling this recipe. We can get through this amount in a day at our place.

Chocolate chia pudding

The gorgeous Heidi Apples posted this recipe earlier in the week. I wouldn't generally re-post something so quickly but I've had more than a few requests for it!

I found this pudding to be very rich and decadent, so although others might choose this for breakfast I would rather have it as a mid-morning snack or dessert. Mainly because I'm not a chocolate at breakfast-time person. Apart from maybe a little Lindt on Easter Day that is.

This recipe also takes a few hours to be ready-to-eat, or you can allow the chia to soak overnight which is what I did. Chia soak up an incredible amount of liquid. I must admit, at first I wasn't sure the quantities are correct, but by morning there was absolutely no liquid left.

Serves 1

2 TBSp Chia Seeds (any colour)
3/4 cup Milk (almond, regular or soy would all work really well)
2 tsp Raw cacao
1/2 tsp  Maple Syrup
3 Medjool Dates, finely chopped

Serve with yogurt, fresh fruit or nuts

Combine all the ingredients, cover, and place in a fridge for at least 2 hours.

Stir prior to serving and top with extras as desired.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The GG Bread Revolution

I've started baking bread.

As any of my readers might know, I really do love baking, but I truly have never ventured past soda bread within the realms of real loaves. I have a Sonoma Sourdough addiction that is costing me dearly. But I only buy a couple of loaves a week so have just about been able to put up with the crazy $8 pricetag.

The blogger Gourmet Girlfriend, yet another talented individual I came across via instagram, and her #ggbreadrevolution persuaded me to give bread a go. And I'm so glad I did.  She uses a New York Times recipe for a no knead bread. 

It's really simple. Four ingredients. Flour, yeast, salt, water. And lots of time, but not much kneading. Truly, this is worth giving a go.


3 cups of plain flour. Use the best you can afford.
1/4 teaspoon of yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 5/8 cups of water  (yes, this is just a fraction over 1 1/2 cups of water)

Incorporate all the ingredients with your hands. My tip is to have wet hands at all times when handling dough - and this one is sticky!
Place in a glass or ceramic bowl (not plastic, it won't rise as well) for 16-18 hours in a warmish spot. Your kitchen will work just fine for this.
Turn the risen dough onto a flour surface and roll into a ball. Sprinkle flour on the top and cover with a tea towel for another couple of hours.
Pre-heat your oven to 220C and place your french oven (ie Le Creuset) inside for 30 minutes.
Then put the dough into the pre-heated french oven and place the lid on. Bake for 30 minutes, and then remove the lid for the final 10-15 minutes.
Allow bread to cool.

Not much effort, but it's not immediate either. Miss 3 has really taken to bread making. In fact, after just a few weeks, she can almost measure and mix the ingredients without a great deal of help from me.  Really the part she seems to struggle with the most is trying to not spill the ingredients everywhere!  Big vats of flour are more than a little tricky for toddlers, I am slightly terrified that she will drop my 5kg container off the kitchen worktop....

It's gorgeous bread. It does have a bit of a crust and a soft and chewy inside. Not really big enough for sandwiches, but the most wonderful accompaniment to lunch or dinner.  And it's the star at breakfast with jam & butter.  Be sure to buy yourself some stunning quality butter.
And check out #ggbreadrevolution on instagram for many more beautiful loaves.

Have I convinced you yet?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

'grams of my life - The Jude Blereau edition

If you don't follow me on Instagram, please do! I am much more active here than on my blog - so much more do-able with 2 littlies in tow! You can search for me under heavenlyingredients

I've just properly discovered Jude Blereau. I came across her book for children 'Wholefood for Children' a few years ago when I was researching cooking for Miss (now) 3. Whilst I enjoyed it, I just borrowed it from the library and none of her recipes entered my everyday cooking. But a few months ago I came across Wholefood when I was sitting in Jammy Cow in Mona Vale. Such an incredible encyclopedia-style book, and great introduction to wholefoods. Totally inspired.  I now have my own copy and have already cooked more than a few things from it.

Then around the same time I came across a Seminar led by Jude Blereau, and by chance it was also in Sydney.  I booked in straight away. The three hours there has re-ignited a passion for feeding my family the best way I can, and continuing to learn about and enjoy food. Jude spoke mainly on how to stock a wholefoods panty, and then how to meal plan and always eat well.  She spoke about many of the falsehoods and food fashions that we have been through (especially low fat!!!!), and smashed them. Jude and Holly Davis (also so so dynamic and interesting) went into a lot of detail about good and bad fats, and how to use them. We also talked about what items were really necessary for the kitchen, how to choose knives, breadboards and so much more. I was straight off to buy fresh organic ghee, amongst other things, the next day. It smells totally amazing, like a bakery with a hint of sweetness, and a great base for meals.

The day after the seminar, I was off to my local health food shop with a long shopping list.  Unfortunately I think some items will prove hard to find. Dashi flakes anyone??? I decided to make chicken stock from scratch to make poor little sick Miss 1 Soba noodle chicken soup. I really do believe that food is better than medicine. It nurtures, it shows love, it heals, it nourishes. Medicine doesn't do all those things. Thankfully, she is on the mend. And yes, strangely enough, my Doctor did tell me that there was no medicine that was going to help her get better.

Roasted Vegetable Quiche, a Jude Blereau recipe from the Wholefoods book.  A tart that doesn't feel indulgent, but healthy and tasty. Delicious.

Raspberry muffins, another recipe from Wholefood by Jude Blereau.  With these colder days I have been craving cake with my tea in the afternoon.  These were just beautiful.

Can't wait to get my mits on a copy of Jude's new book, Wholefood Baking. Totally in my ballpark.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

First look at Williams-Sonoma (and Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn kids!)

I've been dying to get to Williams-Sonoma ever since it opened earlier in the month in Bondi Junction.  I've been a long time lurker on the US website, and apparently I was one of many Sydneysiders doing the same, prompting the first Australian store opening here.

I went along with my friend Sally, and our collection of four kids. We must have been mad. Luckily for us we didn't *need* anything, otherwise the kids may have been a serious disadvantage to getting some real shopping done.

Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn kids and West Elm are all next to each other, in the pedestrian section of Bondi Junction, just across the road from the Bondi Junction Westfield.

Williams-Sonoma is truly a stunning kitchenware shop. My sort of heavenly. Everything is immaculately displayed, there are heaps of very knowledgeable staff, there is a cooking school, and the range is incredible. They sell all sorts of items that are not readily available in Australia, like All Clad and Nordic Ware.  The staff have all been brought over from the States for the first year of business here. I definitely got an American level of service, despite the store being super busy.

Here are my pick of a few special items:

Yellow signature Le Creuset collection. You can't buy this colour anywhere else, and yes it totally is a perfect yellow to continue my yellow obsession.

Emile Henry pie dishes. They had an entire section dedicated to these, more than I've ever seen in one shop. I have a blue one (quite similar to this white one below) and use it all the time, not just for pies but also for baking veggies and also for serving.

This Nordic Ware Hong Kong-style egg waffle maker also caught my eye. I've been wanting a waffle maker for a while now, but haven't found many in Australia. The ones I have found are all electric, and this gas top one was very beautiful, and solid. I'm not totally sold on the less conventional waffle shape though?  Any thoughts on this?

The copper pots on display also left me dreaming. I would love one of these, even just for decoration purposes!

 They also had lot of imported food and food items. I'm so happy to know that I will be able to buy all the sanding sugars and sprinkles for cake decoration - they are seriously hard to come by here.

But husband, I was so well behaved and walked away with only an $8 ravioli cutter. Can't wait to make my first batch of ravioli!

Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn were next stop. Again, the stores are beautiful. Not over-full, but lots to see. They offer lots of help to shoppers as well as complimentary planning services. Oh to plan a nursery with those ladies!

The bedding in particular seemed so reasonably priced, and most things can be mixed and matched, not to mention monogrammed! Our kids loved the kids kitchen area where you can buy amazing retro-style kitchens and all the accessories for play. So cute.

All photos are mine or are from the Williams-Sonoma website.  All of these stores will send anything to any part of Australia, and I think they are opening a Melbourne store soonish.

Friday, May 17, 2013

My un-love affair with my Thermomix

Some of you may have noticed a distinct lack of posts about my Thermomix.

I was given it as a Christmas present by my lovely husband. He needed a considerable amount of convincing over a fairly long period of time.  It really is a huge purchase ($1935), so naturally isn't something that you would just jump into.

I had been along to two demos (these last a couple of hours each) and did a massive amount of online research, read the Choice reviews, watched YouTube videos. I also spoke to a few owners.  It seems that is really is hard to find a single Thermomix owner who doesn't rave and throw about 'it's totally changed my life' type phrases.  Mostly they list all the things they now love to cook that they wouldn't have considered prior to having a Thermomix in the kitchen. The first demo I went to made me really want one, and the second confirmed it for me.

It took a little longer to convince my other half, he certainly wouldn't be attending a demo.  I think what really got my husband over the line was sitting next to a couple of his friends at a wedding, and even hearing the guy tell us how amazing the gadget was.

It arrived in early January and I was so excited I could hardly sleep the night before. My local demonstrator brought over the machine and took me through all the basics; how to wash it, put it together, look after, and we then made a vegetable stock together.  That afternoon I proceeded to cook all the things that I really wanted to try TM style, top of the list were: mushroom risotto, soup and peanut butter.

The risotto turned out well, the Thermomix really does make it an easy, weeknight type of meal.  It takes roughly 25 minutes, and then you remove it and allow it to rest for a few minutes, which gets the liquid to the perfect consistency. It tasted fairly good, but the saltiness of the TM vegetable stock concentrate was overwhelming.

Soup-making is also a piece of cake in the TM - no changing vessel, it weighs and times everything, cooks it, then at the end pulverises the soup into a light liquid in a few seconds flat. But the stock base again was such a strong and unpleasant flavour for me.  I could also taste raw onions in the soup - the TM does 'fry' onions and garlic, but truly I would say it doesn't take them far enough to remove the raw flavour. 

Peanut butter making was an utter disaster. I placed them into the steel container and allowed them be processed for quite a period of time. Much to my surprise, this does not make a butter type consistency at all, more a lumpy/mealy texture. Thermomix peanut butter requires an oil to be added, much to my surprise, as I am a regular buyer of the 100% peanut (nothing added) butter from the Natural Health stores.   By this stage I was a bit crest-fallen. My demonstrator had warned me that it is a totally different way of cooking so does take some getting used to, which I understood, but I truly hadn't expected the first day results I got.

The following few weeks I persisted with trying out other recipes from the Everyday Cooking book. This is the book that comes as part of the Thermomix package. The book is basic to say the least, and to me, quite uninspiring. Most of the recipes are so unhealthy, one of the key things promoted by Thermomix, and they particularly around removing processed food from your diet. The quantities of sugar in the baked items is astonishing.  I made the Anzac biscuits for afternoon tea one day and had the biggest sugar hit I've had in years. They tasted delicious, but I couldn't see me making them again. I made bolognese one night for the family and a couple of extras, and again I couldn't get over the permeating raw onion taste, and also the texture of the sauce. The Thermomix is a very powerful machine, and uses a 'butterfly' piece to soften the impact of its blades but the bolognese ended up being almost a total mush.

It also felt to me that I had been totally removed from the cooking process, which I now realise quite how much I love. Cooking has become a type of therapy to me, and it's hands on and sensory when you do it the old-fashioned way. You know the dough is ready from look and feel.  You add a little bit more salt or spice on taste. You continue to stir in stocks until the consistency is perfect. The Thermomix locks the ingredients into a steel container, and although you can turn it off and check, it doesn't feel the as when the food is bubbling away on the stove.

Another aspect of the TM which I struggled with was converting recipes from my existing cookbook collection to Thermomix-style. Much of the time the order in which you do things is reversed, and it is difficult to guess times and speeds for most newbies as the machine is capable of doing so many things at the same time.  The Thermomix forum was a great recipe resource, but also a veritable rabbit warren of information, much of it posted by individuals rather than the company. It was possible to find a version of what you wanted on there, but probably with the chef-inspiration removed.

After a couple of months the guilt of having this white elephant in the kitchen just got too much. I finally fessed up to my husband that I didn't love my Thermomix and wanted to sell it. He laughed for several minutes at the irony of it all.  Luckily for me, these machines are rarely found second hand as they are so well loved! I sold it for a little under the buying price within a few days.

I would like to make clear that I didn't dislike everything about the Thermomix, it just didn't do all that I wanted it to.  And for over $1900 that meant I was super critical. It made incredible mashed potato, and smoothies, and custard. Really top notch, and so easy. No need to continuously stir that custard for 10 minutes, it does it all for you.

The moral of this story is that my trusty Magimix food processor has now earned its spot on my kitchen counter. Love the simplicity!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Baby led weaning part 2

Fast forward a couple of years. Baby number 2 is on her way. Miss K is still not eating consistently well, most dinners in particular are time consuming and laborious. We have some few and far between 'a-ha' moments; eating a whole junior pizza, loving popping edamame at home, consuming bucketloads of carrots and humous, huge excitement at a sushi train experience. All very positive.

But I knew that second time around I had to approach food differently. You know, that  quote by Albert Einstein kept popping into my head 'the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result'. I had long time been a reader of Homemade Heart. Talia is an inspirational yummy mummy. But what really caught me the most was her calm & positive attitude to food. And the many very detailed posts on how she started to feed her little girl Tabitha. I decided to spend more time looking into it. But truly, I was already convinced that giving a baby the freedom to explore food was the right way to go. Here are a few of Talia's posts to read a bit more on BLW:
Baby Led Weaning part 1
Baby Led Weaning tips part 2
Fast food for toddlers
I ordered the Baby Led Weaning book and read the first half of the book. I found the book reassuring, but also highly repetitive. It did make me feel that I wasn't completely insane to be going this way, it is a tried and tested method of weaning a baby, but just not particularly a mainstream one.

Avocado sandwiches

I started weaning Miss L a little earlier than recommended. Probably just after five months. She has always been a very physically strong bub, she was sitting in her highchair well at around four months. So I decided to give her baby rusks to get her used to holding things in her hand. At this point, hand-eye coordination was not the best, but that's all part of the process. After a couple of weeks or so she was getting a decent suck on these things!

Following on from that I started preparing broccoli and carrots for her, and cooking them reasonably well. Broccoli was highly successful right from the start. They have a solid-ish stalk to hold onto, and the buds at the top are soft on the gums. Carrots took a little longer, but she was shredding a third of the carrot baton quite quickly too.

Peas and tinned tuna

At six months the range of foods that she would eat had multiplied massively. Rice (we used sushi rice mainly, it's chunkier and a bit sticky), salmon, burgers cut into strips, chunks of potato, batons of roast pumpkin, skinned cucumber, shards of roast chicken, slices of pear, nectarine, banana, watermelon.  Humous sandwiches, cheese slices, tomato...

I really can't remember everything, but I really wasn't making extra or different food for her at this time. It was just about adapting what was being served for her needs. I just had a simple rule in my head - needs to be grab-able and not a choke risk. Anything that is too small to start with is a big no no at this age. So peas, grapes and blueberries were definitely off the list. When I was cutting things up for her I tried to make them as long as possible. Roughly a third of the length of the food sits in the baby's palm, so two thirds for actually eating. In theory at least. Obviously it can be more than a little messy at times.

Miss L is fab with her pincer grip at 10 months

So that really leads to the two things that seem to shock or turn people off the very idea of baby led weaning. Mess & choking risk. I really saw it this way - Mess happens anyway. Babies always want to be able to hold their own spoon, and flick it and throw it on the ground. They always get their sleeves and collars grimy, even when wearing a bib. Things always end up on the floor.

Garden picnics. A great anti-mess option!

Choking is a whole different matter, and potentially a lot scarier. The section on this in the Baby Led Weaning book was excellent and very informative. Babies are much more likely to choke/react badly to something that hasn't been put into their mouths by them. Which makes total sense. And they have to learn to deal with lumps and learn when to break them down by masticating at some point. Never be far from your bub when they are learning to eat. Sitting next to them is best. I've never had more than a couple of coughs from either baby, but certainly miss L is dealing with food much better.

Now at ten months Miss L is a wonderful eater. She tries and enjoys everything. She is focused on the meal. She is motivated by food enough to cross a room for a slice of fruit or a sandwich. I've only seem her grimace at the taste of food a couple of times, but that hasn't stopped her from going back for another bite. I put that down to being surprised by the taste of something, rather than not liking it.  This morning I sat with her at playgroup and she consumed a full bowl of mixed morning tea. It contained sliced banana, mandarin segments, rice crackers, rice cakes, hot cross buns and a sweet biscuit. All in very small quantities, but she ate the lot.  Other mothers are constantly amazed by how well she eats for such a little one.

Homemade tuna sushi - now a favourite in our house

Our only difficult moment with BLW has been starting at daycare. I explained on day one that she doesn't like being spoon fed (bar yogurt and the odd weetbix, which are always fed by me). This message wasn't really getting through as in the first few weeks I was having daily feedback that she was eating well at morning and afternoon tea (fruit, veggies and sandwiches) but not eating much lunch, which was generally food that had been pureed for the babies, such as chicken & vegetable noodles. I talked to the Director about my concern, and ever since her carers have let her get on with it and embraced the mess. They too tell me that she eats very well and is very entertaining to watch!

Newspapers are a must! That's her bowl at the back of the pic too.