Wednesday, 30 November 2011

So, you still don't support Same-Sex Civil Unions? (Handsome Man Photo - WITH A CAT!)

Well... I'm surprised that you still don't support Same-Sex Civil Unions. Maybe you believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Well, this bill we're talking about is for Civil Unions, not marriage. Anyway, I respect your views.

I'm even more surprised that regardless of whether you do support it, or don't, that you still haven't contacted your MP to express your opinion, as per my last post!

Look at this man. Look how handsome and rugged he is. He's The Academic, my partner (and he has a GPA of 6.525 in Linguistics!) See how the cat, who for want of a better word is usually gorgeous but feral, is reduced to cuddly, lovable putty in his arms?

He makes me feel the same way too, and supports me to be the best person I can be, and to do my best in life. And I'm a pretty boring guy. But I love our home, our friends, and our life. More importantly, I love him.

How can you not want to help me spend the rest of my life with this man?

Please read this post and go send some emails, call your MP - whatever you can do. We can make a difference!

Remember - "The world is run by those who show up".

If you're time-poor:
Tthe Deputy Premier's petition to support Civil Unions can be accessed here.
All relevant MP contact details, including phone numbers and email address can be accessed here.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Urgent: Do you support Same-Sex Civil Unions?

Hi all,

I apologise to those of you who come here solely to read about food.

I'm planning to post something more substantial, but if you support same-sex Civil Unions (a step down from gay marriage, but a step providing some legal rights, nonetheless) - could you please sign the following petition, from Andrew Fraser MP:

This issue is being debated at the moment, and whether or not to allow Civil Unions (not just for homosexual couples, but also for heterosexual couples who do not wish to get married but want legal rights) is being voted on in Parliament tomorrow, and the entire Liberal National Party has decided to vote against it -  which is very upsetting. This is despite Campbell Newman saying that he supports same-sex Civil Unions.

Update:  Please contact Campbell Newman's Office on 07 3844 0666 and ask him to support the LNP party members and give them their right to have a conscience vote, rather than them continuing as planned to vote against the bill as a bloc, despite their personal beliefs. He is the leader of the State Liberal and National Party, and there is still time for them to allow their members to have this conscience vote.

I have spoken to a number of offices of Labor MPs - and at least three Labor party MPs - Mr Michael Choi - CAPALABA, Mrs Margaret Keech - ALBERT and Mrs Jo-Ann Miller - BUNDAMBA, as well as most of the Independent MPs - are voting against it, and they do not support same-sex Civil Unions.  

I believe that the Speaker, and MP for Logan, John Mickel - will most likely vote against Civil Unions if the vote is tied and he is given the opportunity to vote.

Please contact your MP - whose contact details you can find here - - and give them your opinion on same-sex Civil Unions, whatever your opinion may be. They are here to represent your views.

Ultimately, all we can ask is that people vote for what they think is right. But unfortunately, certain groups are putting a lot of pressure on MPs to vote against this important bill, and MPs are telling me they are hearing from very few people who are in support of same-sex Civil Unions.

Same-sex Civil Unions don't cause harm to anybody. They don't even affect or impact anybody outside of the relationship. Please help us in our step for legal recognition of our rights, our love and our long-term, monogamous relationships.

Matt (The Dilettante)

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Fresh, Australian Biodynamic Garlic

Hi all,

I hope you've had a lovely weekend and have had some time to relax. Sadly, the weekend is coming to a close, and it is still dreadfully hot here where we are. It has been a very busy one, with some family birthdays and (as always) a whole heap of running around, but now it's time to kick back with some crushed ice and some tequila, and graze on little delicious morsels for dinner.

We're having a variation on a raw recipe for dinner - marinated stuffed mushrooms filled with walnut-spinach pesto and pine nut based cheese. We also have some delicious leftover eggplant pasta sauce, based on a Latin American mojo lemon/garlic/olive oil and onion sauce, with some tomatoes added for richness. I might serve the mushrooms on a bed of this (and maybe some truffle oil for good measure!)

Last week, I decided to splurge a little bit and buy something I had heard so much about - some beautiful, fresh "Glamour Garlic", from Patrice Newell's biodynamic farm in New South Wales. As you would know, garlic is one of those things that is great to buy organic/biodynamic - to ensure it hasn't been irradiated, bleached, or treated with hazardous chemicals like methyl bromide.

Doesn't it look biodynamically farm-fresh!
So I now have around about 17 bulbs of this stuff that I would love to find great use for, and not just in standard recipes. I'm looking for recipes that really show off the complex and delicious flavour of garlic, letting it really shine, without too much confusion from lots of cooking or other flavours. I've already used it in Dreena Burton's fabulous "creamy hummus", and it really took it to the next level. It isn't just "hot" like garlic can be, it's quite strong, but somehow delicate and multi-layered.

Can you please recommend some of your favourite recipes that would show off the fabulous flavour of this garlic?

Monday, 21 November 2011

Fast Dried Legumes/Beans (time saving for those with limited attention spans & organisational skills)

I love black beans, and chickpeas. They’re so nutritious, and so versatile. When prepared from scratch, they’re really cost-effective, too. However, canned chickpeas vary in quality, firmness, size and taste, and canned black beans are difficult to purchase – the major supermarkets don’t stock them, and the organic brands from health food stores can be very expensive. Canned legumes’ broth is not always appealing, either – but when you prepare legumes/beans from scratch, you can add some chickpea cooking broth to your hommus if it’s too thin or to add richness without fat, or make a Brazilian Portobello and black bean Feijoada and use the black bean broth in that.

I have a combination electric pressure cooker/slow cooker, so the actual cooking time of legumes for me is usually around 12-25 minutes (and at the press of a button, too! Doesn’t that beat standing in a hot kitchen for over two hours, stirring chickpeas while you wait for them to cook?). Let me answer that for you: yes.

The only hitch is the soaking. What a pain. Ideally, this is around 4-8 hours. And sadly, it stops a lot of people from enjoying legumes. And I have a short attention span and often have no idea what I want to eat until I want to eat it, so planning isn’t always possible. And I know you can “quick soak” things in pressure cookers or pots, or even not soak at all and just cook longer, but that’s not ideal – soaking is important for a number of nutritional and cooking reasons, but also helps remove the “field dust” dirt and grime from your beans. And that stuff is scary and yick. And to be honest, quick soaking something still takes long enough/enough effort that I’d rather just soak for a day/night.

Enter a tip from Vegan Dad – soak dried legumes/beans when you have time, and then freeze the soaked legumes/beans in ziplock bags in portions that you usually use! Brilliant! 1 cup seems reasonable to me, and can easily be split into ½ after freezing. That way, when it’s time for cooking – you can just cook them straight away, And if you have a pressure cooker, you can have black beans ready in 12 minutes! Or chickpeas in 20ish! Perfecto! I have been advised that the beans might lose their shape a little bit when pressure cooking after being frozen.

Though you may prefer to buy beans as you need them, doing them like this can save you a few dollars, as you can buy heaps of dry beans at once (which is often much cheaper) rather than a few cups here and there.

Bonus Box-Cat
If you're just buying beans for one recipe, Lorna Sass (of pressure-cooking fame, sadly, not all vegan)  has a great tip: take along a measuring cup when you're going to buy beans so you get the right amount and aren't left with odd bits of this and that.

Remember: eat simply, but use the best quality ingredients you can find/afford. It'll make such a difference to the meal!

Enjoy your Monday, everyone.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Minor Kitchen Utensils You Probably Need (That will make all the difference!)

I know I'm not the cook, but, because of that, I'm the one in the background making the cooking possible, doing things like juicing and zesting lemons, refilling the oil, getting things out, putting them away, etc.

Whether you have someone to do this for you, or you do it yourself, there are a few invaluable items that we have in the kitchen that I don't know how I lived without. Some of them are "duh" moments (either because they make so much sense, or because you already have them), but others might not immediately spring to mind.

I have no idea how we survived so long without a funnel. It's one of those things you can live without, but once you have them, your life is easier and you waste a lot less. Refilling everything is a breeze! All of a sudden, you can buy EVERYTHING IN BULK! AND THEN PUT IT IN CONVENIENT SMALLER CONTAINERS! THE WORLD IS YOUR YAM!

I don't know.

I thought you'd be able to get funnels everywhere, but when we were looking to buy them, no one had any, so eventually we got them at Ikea for about 2 dollars (which included a larger one and a smaller one). The smaller one is great for refilling spice jars when they're empty, whereas the large is mainly used for refilling oil bottles that become empty, or refilling the sugar / flour.

We go through bucketloads of lemons, and occasionally limes, and even more occasionally oranges. While we mostly use lemon juice (yes, you can buy it from the supermarket, but nothing ruins a dish more than pre-packaged lemon juice. Ergh), lemon zest is called for in quite a lot of recipes (or at least  a few we've seen recently).

If you buy lots of lemons to juice, you probably already juice them, freeze them, and then use the juice later. But what about what you have 30L of lemon juice, but no lemons, and the recipe calls for lemon zest?

The answer; a zester! If you don't want to invest in one of these, you can just use the finest blade on your grater (our zester is really just a tiny little grater). So, before you juice the lemons, or limes, or oranges, wash them off, dry them well, and zest them. If you don't dry them, the zest will end up water logged and freezing/defrosting will become a drama. Put the zest in a little tupperwear container or some sort and then pop it in the freezer. Then, whenever a recipe calls for it, you'll have zest, ready and waiting!

These are also grate (ha) for spices, for example, grating up whole nutmeg.

We have a microplane zester exactly like the one pictures above; I find these are a lot easier to use than a grater because it's much more maneuverable, so you can hold the fruit and zest around it.

You probably already own a salad bowl, but why not have more!
Because we have nowhere to put them.

But anyway...

We have three large glass bowls; two from Ikea (perfect example of Ikea having no clear pricing structure: they cost about $4 each, and they're wonderful. The same bowl in wood costs $18. BUT WHY. And will we ever know? I dunno. KMart also have similar glass bowls, but they only cost about $3) and one that just... is. They're for salads, obviously (but, unlike some salad bowls, they're large enough to mix big salads in), but they're also good for soaking beans in, and making trifle, and presenting things nicely, or, if you're desperate, as a food cover over the top of a plate (sometimes, it happens). They also stack, for easy storage!

Lemon (& Lime) Juicer
We have two of these: 

a clamp-like one (that has a green part for juicing limes and a yellow part for juicing lemons; pictured above) and a "double up" juicer (which we got from Matt's Mum because she has too many appliances RATHER LIKE SOMEONE ELSE I KNOW). The first if great if you only have a couple of lemons to do; the latter is great if you have an entire bag, either of lemons or oranges.

We go through heaps of lemon juice, and there's nothing more disgusting than the bottled lemon juice you buy from the supermarket. We usually get a big bag of lemons when they're on special, zest them, and juice them. You can store the juice in the freezer if you're not going to use it, but if you go through a lot of it, leave a container of it in the fridge, so it's ready to use when you need it. (and, of course, the zest goes in the freezer).

Yes, you can absolutely survive without these things, but they will make your life much, much easier, whether you're a cook (like the Dilettante) or just a helper (like me).

If you have any utensils you can't live without, post them in the comments below. [from Matt: DO IT! JUSTIFY TO HIM THAT I NEED MORE UTENSILS AND APPLIANCES! PLEASE.)