Peppermint Crisp fudge slice

Cherry ripe slices and original version of peppermint crisp fudge. They are pretty soft so I would recommend using the same crust as for the cherry ripe if you want them to hold together better.

I bought some peppermint essence some time ago but it had stayed in the pantry unopened. To tell the truth, I was a little afraid of it. I had a bad experience with peppermint essence once when experimenting with it as a kid….suffice to say that I think I learned the hard way that “less is more” as far as peppermint essence is concerned.

The other night though, I was thinking about it (particularly after Sarv’s comments about chocolate and mint combinations) and decided to face my fears head on and make my cocoa with some peppermint essence in it. It was great! And it woke up the taste buds and brought back memories of enjoying Peppermint crisp bars with my Grandmother and my mum when I was a little girl.

These are my recreation of that memory. They may not taste the exactly the same but they are inspired by the peppermint crisp chocolate bar of my childhood.

Warning: These take a little bit more effort than my usual freezer slices do but I think you will find it worth your while.

CHOCOLATE – note alternative which makes a firmer slice*

  • 2 cups pitted dates (soaked overnight in water to cover)
  • enough of the soaking water to achieve thick melted chocolate consistency
  • 1-2 tsp coconut butter
  • 1 cup (or to taste) cocoa

Blitz all ingredients in food processor until thick and smooth

PEPPERMINT LAYER

  • 1/2 cup pitted dates (soaked as above – just soak them all together)
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight if your blender isn’t super strong – discard water)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut butter
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon spirulina powder (optional but makes it green). NOTE: (if you don’t care if it isn’t green then just leave it out – if you don’t have it and like it green you could sub in some spinach or you could even use mint if you have it and use less or no peppermint essence. Use food dye if you don’t care about the chemicals) –
  • 1 (or more or less to taste) tspn peppermint essence
  • enough of the soaking water from dates to blend mix to thick consistency (I do this in the mill)
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat groats and 1/4 cup white quinoa (lightly toasted until quinoa starts to pop) – you could leave this out but it provides the crisp bit so I wouldn’t leave it out!

Blitz everything except the groats / quinoa in food processor / mini chopper or mill until smooth

Mix in toasted seeds.

* CRUST – firmer version for chocolate layer (makes enough for this slice recipe and extra to make peanut butter one or cherry ripe one)

  • oats (about 2-2.5 cups)
  • dates (about 1 -1.5 cups) – depends how sweet you like things
  • desiccated coconut (about 1 cup)
  • cocoa (about 1/2 -3/4 cup) – depending on how chocolately you like things
  • coconut butter (about  1 rounded  teaspoon)
  • water (just a little to help it meld together) – if you like you could presoak the dates and reserve the water adding a little bit at a time as needed. I was too impatient to soak anything!

Blitz all ingredients in the food processor until they form crumbs that stick together or a ball of dough depending on your intention (for a slice go for crumbs and for a dough / pastry go for ball).

TO ASSEMBLE

  1. In a slice tin lined with baking paper, spread (or press) half of the chocolate mixture in an even thin layer, smoothing with a spatula.
  2. Freeze for about 30 minutes so it is firm enough to spread the mint without it mixing.
  3. Freeze again for 30 minutes until firm and then spread over the rest of the chocolate. Cover carefully with baking paper and
  4. Freeze for a few hours or overnight until solid. (I was impatient so cut when the fudge was not that hard – still tastes nice this consistency but I would recommend overnight).
  5. Cut into small squares and store in freezer or fridge until ready to eat. (Put some away hidden in the depths of the freezer for friends so your family don’t eat them all.)
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Mixing it up a bit

Kata

In March 2014 when I first entered a dojo, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. At some point in the first few months I discovered there were particular styles of karate and that the style I was learning from my first Sensei was called Go-ju ryu and a few months after that, when another Sensei from the network came to visit our dojo, I found out what that actually meant (literally at least….I am still filling in the blanks about what it means practically, more and more as I go along).

After I had been training about 5 months or so I started going along to another network dojo with another Sensei, who practised / taught another style, Shito Ryu. Their kata (forms) were completely unfamiliar to me (obviously) and I started to get a sense of just how big this whole thing really was. At that point I was finding it difficult enough to learn the go-ju kata I needed for my first grading and so I stopped going to the kata classes there and just went to their (highly energetic and super fun) kumite (sparring) classes instead as I found there was sufficient crossover to help me with my basics and it gave me some extra exposure to tactics and strategy (not to mention, leading up to a tournament, insight into how the other team played – hehe!)

After my second grading at the end of last year, I was starting to get a little more confident with the basics and I wanted to get better at learning kata more easily. My first kata took me absolutely ages, my second and third, slightly less time but I still felt there was something (other than just practice), I could do to make it work better for me. It turned out there was; exposure! It kind of happened by accident in a way.

My first (main) dojo takes school holidays off and 6 whole weeks without going to a class was not an option for me. I was worried I would lose ground and frankly I was / am slightly addicted! Fortunately the other classes in the network don’t take that much of a break so I went back to my kumite class in the second week of January and even went to their kata classes. Then I saw that the other dojo  in the network (the one I hadn’t been to) were starting back the following week. This was the class run by the Sensei who visited our club before. I had heard he had trained in Go-ju but that he now trained / taught a different style which combined several styles that he had trained in. I contacted him and arranged to come to the first class. I liked it so much I went to all the classes in the first week or 2. Since then I have been going once, usually twice a week in addition to my other regular classes.

Sensei dai ni (second Sensei I started with) and Sensei dai san had kept asking me since the start of the year when Sensei dai itchi (my original Sensei) was having a grading (ie when was I going to be grading) but Sensei dai ichi hadn’t really mentioned it so I didn’t really think I would be grading any time soon – and anyway I only graded at the end of last year so I wasn’t in any great hurry. I figured it would happen at some point, by which time I would be ready. Bottom line though – I hadn’t even remotely considered the possibility of grading in another style in addition to Go-ju.

It had all been chugging along fine especially after I made sure that all the Sensei were OK with me training here, there and everywhere (I think they thought that it was fine, although perhaps I was a little crazy or obsessed…..?….but then perhaps I am), and then last week Sensei dai san (the 3rd Sensei  I started with) suggested I grade with their club in a couple of weeks.

Frankly I wasn’t sure what to think or what to say. I went home feeling sort of happy, sort of proud, but also a little confused and a little conflicted.

I didn’t want to offend any of the 3 Sensei, as I hold them all in high regard, respect them all tremendously and am eternally grateful to them all for everything they have taught me thus far. And besides all of that, they are all fantastic guys who have become a very important part of my karate family!

In particular I didn’t want Sensei dai Ichi to think I thought any less of him or his style, and also, I didn’t want Sensei dai San to think I didn’t take his style seriously. Sensei dai Ni seems pretty cool with me coming to his kumite classes and knows I can’t / won’t  grade with them because I don’t know their kata well enough (because, as I said before, I have avoided the kata classes as they were getting me confused!).

For some reason though (possibly timing was a factor), attending Sensei dai San’s dojo had actually helped me a lot with learning kata. This is possibly related to the fact that his style has 35 of them. And because they have lots of them to learn, they spend quite a bit of time in class practising them. OK so I haven’t even followed along with even close to all of them. But I have “learned” (mostly by osmosis) about the first 6 or 7 or at least learned the basics. I purposely hadn’t really been practising them in my own time since I wasn’t considering grading in another style and also because I didn’t want to confuse myself (especially since some of the kata are similar but not the same as the ones I have been learning in Go-ju – which incidentally has 12 or 13 kata of which I “know” 5 or 6).

Anyway, I felt there were some serious conversations to be had before I could make a decision. My husband was the first person I talked it over with. He got me into this mess in the first place by sending me to a dojo to get addicted to Karate! He said to me that really I should try and grade with Sensei dai San’s club because I was training there at least as much (probably more) than at my main club and Sensei dai San wouldn’t have suggested it if I wasn’t ready. Then I had a quick chat online with Sensei dai San to say that provided Sensei dai Ichi was on board with the idea then I would have a go. He said he would support me either way (good to know).

Next it was time to have a chat with Sensei dai Ichi. I wanted to talk in person, or at least on the phone, rather than via message or email, because I wanted to be sure there would be no misunderstanding. I sent him an email on Friday night asking him when would be a good time to chat. It was pretty late so I wasn’t expecting a response but about 2 minutes after I sent the email, he called me.

I explained the situation and we discussed a lot of stuff related to my training which was also really helpful for me. Sensei dai Ichi said he has actually been training with Sensei dai San (which I knew), so that he can work towards his next grading (in Goju). As I had hoped / expected, was happy for me to grade in the other style and said that he and all the other Sensei in our local network had trained in (and graded in) more than one style anyway, so really, it was nothing new! So that, it seemed, was settled.

We also talked about the differences in teaching styles between the 3 Sensei (which is something he often asks me to talk about, and I do try, as I know that feedback is useful). I have actually been giving it a lot of thought lately and I was able to articulate my thoughts a bit more succinctly than normal. In all honesty I find every class and every Sensei great and I don’t think anyone needs to change, as such, because they all bring different things to the table. My current train of thought though, is that there is a 3 way Venn diagram with shin (mind) gi (body)  tai (spirit) and there is overlap in teaching priority, but each of them has a focus more on one area. To me Sensei dai Ni = shin, Sensei dai Ichi = gi and Sensei dai San = tai.

He asked me to stop being negative about my performance because I was talking about my struggles to learn all the other grading kata. This negative self talk, is something that has been creeping in lately,  and I have noticed it. Perhaps it is a  back-sliding into old habits, possibly in response to what has been a very stressful period in my life. However, that isn’t really a good enough excuse and I must try harder to go easy on myself; after all, I am committed and am doing the best I can.

Truth be told though I think the thing I am most nervous about is that by “mixing it up” a bit in terms of styles, I am (and actually have once) going to start one kata and finish up doing another! However, if that’s the worst thing that happens, well…. so what?

Jaffa walnut brownies

When you are onto a good thing, stick to it!

Riding the success of my Sarv’s Jaffa Cake https://sagiashidachi.wordpress.com/2015/04/22/sarvs-jaffa-cake/ (which I have on good authority was very tasty), I thought I would try another jaffa recipe out.

I recently made some black bean (well actually kidney bean) brownies from Gluten Free Vegan Girl’s blog which were great so I thought I would try a variation on that theme. This was also an excuse to get back on the horse as far as my “new” oven was concerned.

INGREDIENTS

2.5 cups cooked kidney beans

1.5 cups presoaked (in water or in the OJ) pitted dates

rind and juice of 2 oranges

1 tsp vanilla extract

almond pulp from making almond milk (ie 1 cup of almonds which had been soaked and “milked”)

2 tsp flax seed meal

3/4 cup walnuts

METHOD

Preheat oven to about 120 degrees. (Especially if you have an oven that kills things).

Put dates and juice in food processor and turn into puree. Add in remaining ingredients except walnuts and blitz until smooth.

Add in walnuts and pulse a few times to mix in (or mix in by hand).

Bake in 2 lined small loaf tins lined with baking paper for about 45 minutes (check and rotate after about 1/2 cooking) or until top is cracked a little and skewer comes out clean from centre.

Cool in tins – refrigerate to firm up.

Cut into desired portions and keep in fridge. I have also frozen some (I hope that works) for Sarven to try next week : )

Try not to eat it all at once.

Sarv’s Jaffa Cake

The icing was really difficult over the grated chocolate and orange rind so not up to my usual standard of writing. None the less the cake was delicious.

OK so there is a bit of a story behind this cake.

As my readers and friends would know, I am in the midst of moving houses. So my old kitchen is now off limits (since my husband has cleaned it to within an inch of its life) and my new kitchen is not all that functional…..particularly the oven. It works in that it gets hot ….. very hot….. my first venture with it was a simple one – crisping some tortilla’s into corn chips…..let’s just say they got VERY crisp VERY fast…..so my confidence for baking cakes in it is pretty low.

Moving house has left me little time for doing other chores (like shopping for example) so life has been somewhat chaotic and finding what ingredients and implements we have can require traversing three rooms and excavating another cardboard box!

Our weekly Friday gathering is at my brother’s this week. We can’t host it here yet, not with our little trestle table, 5 odd chairs and general level of disorganisation. This level of disorganisation, however does not exclude us from providing something for dinner. At least I got the email and got first dibs on choosing what I would make. It is my sister out law’s birthday coming up and we will be celebrating that so I thought I would do the dessert which generally I can throw together without having to go shopping and raw cakes don’t rely on ovens so win-win…..get to try out the new freezer instead.

I had a look around at our stocks last night. I had lots of oranges and lots of almond pulp and I thought it would be nice to make some sort of Jaffa creation. I didn’t actually use a recipe and just went by feel and taste on it. The mixture tasted nice though so I figured it would be ok. I made a sample cake as well as the birthday cake and thought I would take it to training for my friendly instructor Sarv. He generally seems to appreciate my cakes and gives great feedback.

I thought I was in trouble when I received a text message from Sarv at 10 to 10 this evening. It said “I practically died when I tried this Jaffa cake…” (I am unable to print the rest of the message as it is not PG…see below) but in a further text  he clarified, “Thanks heaps for the cake, love it!” and so I have a lot more confidence now. 😀

So thank you Sarv, not only for being a great Sensei, and a great guy in general, but for being my guinea pig on this cake. And because I agree, I can’t really call it the “New Vegan Cr@$k” (read illicit substance of choice), I will just call it Sarv’s Jaffa Cake. I hope Helen and the rest of the family like it just as much as you.

RECIPE

Makes one 20cm cake and one 10cm cake (or you can probably squish it all in the bigger tin or you could make brownies in a lamington or slice tin).

  • 3 cups dates soaked in the juice and rind of 5 oranges (divided) – preferably soak over night. 15 minutes I did it for wasn’t really long enough and the dates were hard to purée.
  • Pulp from 3 batches of almond milk (this is about 4.5 cups of pulp which is the result of 3 cups of soaked almonds)
  • 1 cup plus 3 heaped tablespoons cocoa (divided)
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 4 teaspoons coconut oil (divided)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (divided)
  • a little water (as needed)

FOR THE CAKE

  1. Put 2 cups of dates about 1/4 – 1/2 the OJ / pulp, 1 cup cocoa and the dessicated coconut in processor with some of the almond pulp and blitz until smooth.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 teaspoons coconut oil and rest of the almond pulp and blitz until it is a very thick batter / dough.
  3. Put in tin / s lined with baking paper and smooth over with spatula.

FOR THE ICING

  1. Put the remaining cup of dates / some juice (start with 1/4 cup and add more as needed) / other 2 teaspoons of coconut oil / other teaspoon of vanilla and 3 tablespoons of cocoa in food processor and blitz until smooth and glossy. I prefer to do this in my mill attachment. If too thick thin down with water or rest of juice and blend again.
  2. Ice the cake and cover with baking paper and freeze overnight.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

Mini-me cake travelled an hour and sat through a 90 minute training session on an ice brick and then travelled home with Sarven so am not sure yet what advice to give on serving / consistency from freezer vs fridge. I imagine getting it out 30 minutes prior and removing baking paper / putting it in the fridge would work. I think it might be nice (and decadent) garnished with some orange rind and grated dairy free dark chocolate……we will see how I go with remembering all that on Friday!!

Update: I decorated and put the cake in the fridge when we started mains and took it out and left it on the bench after that for about 20 minutes. Consistency was perfect – sort of like ice cream cake. It was devoured by kids and adults alike.

Thinking outside the box

Who needs built in robes when you have a few (hundred) moving boxes!

Well Hello again!

It’s been a little while since I wrote anything on here. I have been slightly preoccupied and very busy with the whole house moving thing. After hundreds of boxes and several car loads of stuff came up our driveway we were finally able to move in to our new place last Friday, only a week after settlement so overall not too bad.

There is still a lot to be done at the old place to get it cleaned and pretty so we can get it on the market and until we sell, much of our furniture will remain there to make the house look like a home. Whilst I am enjoying the whole minimally furnished look (I can practice kata in pretty much every room of the house without hitting a wall!), this provides part of the incentive to sell fast. There are still some things that we would like to do here too (such as some built in storage, some flooring and perhaps eventually the kitchen). My husband and I have been pretty busy between work and other commitments trying to get everything done, so much so that there has been very little time to sit down and enjoy our new home.

We have barely had time to talk to each other before collapsing wearily at midnight onto our new mattress (on the floor, our bed still being at the old house) and sleeping briefly only to be woken before the crack of dawn by the munchkins who are definitely excited about the move. Having “cardboard” walls and little furniture / no carpet means that even from our room at the opposite end of the house, we can hear their sneezing and the stomping  pitter – patter of their little feet, bless them.

But there have been moments already, like waking up to hear the magpies and see the beautiful view from our room or watching the kids play outside in the alfresco and the big garden, while cooking / cleaning up in the kitchen or coming home from work to see the sunset reflected in the window of the front room, which leave me feeling so grateful and certain that we chose the right place to call home. I know we will be very happy here and I know we won’t regret the decision, despite the fact it was made in haste, under pressure and at an incredibly stressful time.

So as I see the light at the end of the tunnel I am starting to be able to think outside the box(es) again. And speaking of boxes, they do make excellent wardrobes don’t you think? Perhaps we don’t need the built in’s for Mr 6 after all…..lol!

Sorting the Life Laundry

As I progressively sort through and pack up all our stuff, in preparation for “the big move” I am sometimes torn with what to throw out, what to keep, what to give to specific people, what to give to Op Shops and what we actually need (versus want) to set up our new home. One thing is for certain, in the 10+ years we have been living here we have accumulated a lot of stuff!

There is a lot of stuff that is of no use to anyone and that must be got rid of – my husband and kids never seem to throw anything out but now it has to go. There is some stuff that I know others will benefit from at their particular stage of life (that we are now finished with and only needed briefly so survived unscathed). There is some stuff I am ambivalent about and know others that will get enjoyment out of it (like my vinyl collection – my turntable died months ago anyway).

Of course, there is a lot of stuff that we don’t need. We want it but it isn’t actually necessary for our survival or even comfort. And a lot of that stuff we will keep anyway because we want it or because it is too sentimental to throw out. Do I need my CD collection which I rarely get time to listen to? No, but I still packed it. Do I need my high school music exercise books and art sketch books? No, but I still kept them. Do I really need so many clothes (this was my question after I had already culled my wardrobe by at least half!!)…..I went through a stage of compulsive op shopping a year or 2 ago and accumulated way too much)? Almost certainly, not, but having culled twice in about 6 months I don’t know what else to leave behind. I haven’t got to the kitchen yet but I am guessing I am going to be humming and harring on which crockery I really need even though some of it hasn’t been used the whole time we have been here!!

I never really thought of myself as sentimental, but there have been moments during this long and torturous process where I have had to stop and reflect on or even share a memory before I can move on. Sometimes it’s a quick giggle to myself (like when I found the missing “a” piece from my daughter’s name puzzle. I had kept the rest of the puzzle, figuring that eventually all the letters would turn up and encouragingly had progressively found the pieces with the last one turning up behind the TV cabinet when we dismantled it. Sometimes it’s exasperation like when I find the 200th little magnetic stick / ball in the 6th room of the house when I had thought there couldn’t possibly be any more left to find and I had packed most of them in one box and fewer and fewer in other random boxes. Then there are moments like this afternoon where I came across my 6 year old’s baby scrap book and the belly cast I had taken and had later decorated. .

What do we actually need?  We need clean water (don’t need to pack that – new place has taps and even a water filter). We need a roof over our heads (well the knew place certainly has a that) and a place to rest (even if it is initially a mattress on the floor!). We need food (once we get a fridge there that will be even more achievable). We need each other’s love and company (even though we frequently drive each other nuts!!); the new house will suit our family well as it has lots of together space, lots of separation space and lots of room to run around / go crazy / practice karate / fly quad-copters (choose applicable option) outside (even concurrently!!)

There is a lot of stuff on our wish list that we don’t yet have, but it can wait. I would like a new (or new to me) piano. My kids would like a trampoline. My husband would like a full size snooker table and a very big flat screen TV (yes we are the only people who still own a CRT….which we purchased second hand on Ebay for $40 about 10 years ago). We would like to put in heating but I am trying to convince my husband to see if we can see out the first winter and summer there before we decide what to put it. We would also like to make the house more eco friendly (with rainwater tanks and solar panels). There are various other bits of furniture we could do with also as it is a larger house but I am very on board with a minimalist approach after the last week or so of de-cluttering!!

My ambition is to try not to accumulate stuff in our next house. I am trying to get everyone on board with this plan. Hopefully we won’t have to move until we need to be carried out in a box (I said that about this place and was wrong), but I don’t want to be doing this or have someone else having to do it on my behalf on such a grand scale!

“How did I fit in there?” (my belly cast at 37 1/2 weeks pregnant with Jonah)……still don’t know whether to keep this or not……

How to take a quick dip

In the midst of packing boxes to move / clear the house, Pesach (Passover) and Seder night crept up on me and my Mum who was hosting, asked me to provide Salad, dips and crudités to serve 20. Um…OK….no problem…..so instead of procrastibaking I had to have a quick dip!

Salad is something I make in my sleep and eat everyday so I just had to send my time poor husband to the shop on his way home from work on Wednesday.

As far as dips went I was told someone was bringing a chick pea salad so I thought humus might have to be off the menu. My mushroom pate is generally popular so I thought I would make some version of that again. The others I kind of free formed. Because there was so much other food, I drastically over-catered as it turned out but oh well – leftovers are ok.

Wasabi pea and avocado dip

about 2 cups frozen peas (thawed)

2-3 small ripe avocados

2-3 tablespoons tamari (to taste)

large squeeze of wasabi paste (to taste)

splash of lemon juice

Blitz all ingredients in food processor.

Mushroom and nut pate

about 500 gm mushrooms

green parts of a bunch of spring onions

bay leaf

mixed herbs (about 1 tsp)

pepper

tamari (to taste – about 1 Tbsp)

black tahini (1 Tbsp) optional

1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)

handful raw cashews (pre soaked if you like creamier consistency)

handful toasted walnuts (can just toast in frypan you cook mushrooms and spring onion in)

splash brandy

water or stock to thin to desired consistency

Fry onions, mushroom and bay leaf with walnuts until mushrooms tender and onions wilted. Add herbs and brandy and cook off alcohol.

Allow to cool a little.

Add to food processor with remaining ingredients (except pepper and tamari). Blitz until mostly smooth / slightly chunky then season to taste and pulse to combine.

C to the power of 5 dip

The C’s are: Carrot, Corriander root / stem, Cumin, Chilli and Canellini beans.

About 750 gm carrots

Roots and stems of bunch of coriander

inch of ginger

1 veg stock cube

+ water to steam / boil veg in

1 rounded teaspoon cumin

1 rounded teaspoon turmeric

1 tin canellini beans, drained

1/2 tsp chilli powder (more or less according to taste – ours is home made from habeneros so you don’t need even that!)

lemon juice (optional)

salt or tamari to taste

In a medium to large pot steam carrot, corriander roots / stems and ginger in water with stock cube, until tender / soft. Allow to cool. Add vegetables to food processor with remaining ingredients (except salt / tamari), Use stock remaining in pot to thin as needed. Season to taste.

Serve with crudités (or in this case people served the dips on Matza. I had the carrot one on my salad actually!)

I forgot to take pictures but will try and have some up tomorrow.

Reflections.

I recently had some quiet time away after a very busy period. I did write (by hand) a long blog post on the madness that preceded it but I have decided not to publish it (at least certainly not without significant editing / cuts!). I will share with you some reflections which I published on facebook while we were away. Other than that I used social media and any communication / electronics very little which was also a refreshing change.

(The photo below was taken the afternoon we arrived at Myponga Beach where we spent our relaxing couple of days).

Life is but a constant series of moments. As in nature, these moments are as fleeting as they are raw and beautiful.

Moments can be captured (to a greater or lesser degree) in photographs and in memories, and replayed, as such, but never actually repeated.

Keep your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin alert and take in each moment to the fullest degree possible. Most importantly, keep your mind open, that you may take something with you from each moment, (a momento, if you will); something which will help you not only to remember, but to learn and grow.