Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Healthy Apple and Pear Crumble Pie







Anyone that knows me, knows how much i love to bake. Baking for me is so soothing. I love getting my hands into pastry and fillings etc.

I love experimenting with baking too. This recipe was definitely an experiment. It has NO SUGAR, and very LITTLE BUTTER. I love dessert, I actually like to have it most nights. Sometimes it will be chocolate, a tiny square, and that's it! Or yoghurt, fruit, or even PIE! I am always looking at ways to make traditional recipes, full of butter and sugar, a little healthier.

This time I thought I would just rely on the fruit for that bit of sugar. My thought was, I could reduce the water that I poached the fruit in to make a lovely sticky sweet syrup, and use it through the whole pie for that bit of sweetness.

Personally I loved this pie. But I don't like anything too sweet, unless it is something worth all that sweetness, the Japonaise at The Sweet Spot is worth all the sugar!

Pastry
1 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
50 grams butter
ice cold water
1 1/2 tablespoons almond meal

Filling
3 pink lady apples
1 beurre bosc pear, for crunch
2 William Bartlett pears
Half vanilla pod
1 tablespoon plain flour
cinnamon to taste
1-2 cups water to cover fruit about 3/4 way

Crumble
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup oats
50 grams butter
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
2 tablespoons almond meal
cinnamon to taste
brown sugar, optional I didn't add any instead I used 2 teaspoons of fruit syrup from poaching fruit


Rub flour and butter together in a bowl to resemble breadcrumbs. Add a splash or two of cold water till the dough just comes together. Roll out to fit your pie dish, with some over hanging. Roll the edges up. Blind bake in a 190C oven for about 20 minutes.
Once out of the oven sprinkle the base with almond meal.

Once you have the pastry in the oven, cut up all the fruit into bite size chunks.
Place it all in a pot with vanilla and a good teaspoon of cinnamon.
Simmer the fruit for about 20 minutes, some will collapse.
Strain the fruit mixture keeping the liquid in a small pot. Add the fruit to the pie base.

Whisk in a tablespoon of flour to the syrup, then reduce the syrup by at least half. This will thicken and sweeten as it reduces, creating the sweetness needed without adding sugar! Takes about 10 minutes on med heat.
Pour the thickened liquid over the fruit, reserving 2 teaspoons for the crumble.

Mix all the crumble ingredients together adding 2 teaspoons of the fruit syrup for sweetness, you can of coarse add dark choc chips, or brown sugar instead. If crumble mixture doesn't come together, like...well a crumble, then add more butter or syrup, or even a dash of water.
Crumble over the top of the fruit. Bake the pie for about 40 minutes or until the crumble is well browned.
Serve with yoghurt, sour cream or my favourite vanilla ice cream.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Post Ive Been Avoiding

I have anxiety issues.

I have issues with anxiety.

Even writing the word anxiety gives me a sick feeling in my stomach. But it is a word i live with everyday. Something I need to own, and say more often.

Is today going to be a good day? AM I going to have a dreaded panic attack? This is what I fear the most a panic attack. I've had soooo many in my adult life. I know the signs very well. Anxiety started for me over 10 years ago. I know how to deal with them now, well at least I think I do.

As soon as that black wave of anxiety and nausea hits me, I know I have to keep myself busy, focus on other stuff, mostly get out of the house. Getting out of the house is actually the most important for me. I have a slight social phobia, so I don't really like getting out to meet up with people, or travelling too far away from my "safe place." I now know, this is exactly what I have to do. What I FEAR!


Anxiety for me feels like a hole I can't fill. A big arse ugly ditch that, no matter how hard I try, just wont fill. Anxiety is a bitch, but it is something I can deal with, Ive done it before and i can do it again.


Mind you I haven't had a full blown attack in about 2 years. I had a few minor attacks while I was pregnant. I was worried in the first trimester about losing the baby, I'd had a previous miscarriage at 13 weeks, then the last trimester about having the baby! Normal levels of anxiety that most pregnant woman deal with :)

For now, anxiety is family. Oh family, you love them and you hate them. Both are such strong words, but these words fit appropriately about how I feel about them.

I know the reason I'm starting to have anxiety again, and who is causing it. I just wish that I knew how to deal with the situation better. I think I have tried everything. I have tried talking to this person, opening up as much as I can, which I really hate to do, hoping and praying that this person would understand me more, no such luck. I've tried avoiding them, again no luck,  this seems to make the situation worse for me. I often wonder how having little G around, such a gorgeous little ball of sunshine, could keep this person in such a dreadful mood. She is the happiest baby I know, who brings a smile to even a strangers face <3 <3 <3

I've always wanted a simple life. A small house with a little backyard, husband, kids and a dog. I know there is always going to be anxiety around me, I get that, that's life, but this is seriously making me think about my choices.

I want people to get along. Even if it is fake. At least for the sake of my little G. When im not around I dont give a shit what happens. I also want a little respect. I am her mother, no one else (no matter how hard it is wished) and I deserve a little of that. I am a damn good mother, and I am proud of it. I do my best for her everyday to see her happy.

Maybe I just need a break, a holiday, just me and the kid? Somewhere I can take a big deep breath, lift this heavy weight off my shoulders and clear the fog in my mind.

I really miss my old house. I think it was healthier for me there. I know I was happier.

But I also know I will find a happy place again. I am very optimistic, I aways have been. Otherwise I wouldn't of survived panic attacks the first time round. I know that they stop. They can be crippling but only if you let them, and Im not going to this time.


How do you deal with a bad situation? Do you leave or confront head on?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Toothy!


Can you see her little toothy? <3<3<3



Well finally Georgi has a little Tooth coming along! At 9 months, and on 1st of April, April fools! I felt that little tooth.

It is the most anticipated tooth ever, I am choosing to call it "Toothgate". We have all been waiting for it, hubs, me, my family AND the In-Laws.

You see my kid loves food. I am so excited for her to try new textures and tastes when she has teeth.
She is growing too quickly. With her little "mmmms", and "yum yum yums" with all her food, even Weet-bix LOL! She has a fit if food is not ready quickly, it has to be timed perfectly. If she sees her little pink food bowl, all hell breaks loose, and she sheds real tears if you don't feed her then and there! She really is mummy's girl ;)

She was brilliant, I was expecting tantrums and lots of tears and sleepless nights. Every mother has told me that this is only the beginning though. Hopefully her teeth sprouting wont be too unbearable for her.

Not quite ready for this, but at least she is excited! Hopefully she stays like this about brushing her teeth.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Happy Easter




Source: bhg.com via Tina on Pinterest
















Source: soc.li via leah on Pinterest


Happy Easter, hope everyone's Easter is filled with lots of food, babies, laughs, happiness and chocolate.


Xristos Anesti!!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tsourekia AKA Greek Easter Bread







As most of you know, my dad is Greek and my mother Russian so we tend to have a lot of European food and follow Orthodox traditions.
This week is our Easter. But we celebrate in a different way than eating hot cross buns, and chocolate. We fast.

Living an Orthodox Life: Fasting

Gluttony makes a man gloomy and fearful, but fasting makes him joyful and courageous.
And, as gluttony calls forth greater and greater gluttony, so fasting stimulates greater and greater endurance.
When a man realizes the grace that comes through fasting, he desires to fast more and more.
And the graces that come through fasting are countless..

Taken from orthodoxinfo.com


We have a set of "rules" we follow as to what we eat and what we don't. Basically it is no animal product over the Easter week, starting from Sunday. It goes till Easter Saturday, when in the morning you go to church for communion, and the fast is broken, but there is still no meat eating till Sunday. The day when most will have a massive lamb, pork or goat, or all of the above on a spit ready to be destroyed.

There are certain "rules" as to what to make/bake when also. Most people bake biscuits on Wednesday, paint eggs, and bake Tsourekia on Thursday, and Good Friday nothing as it is a holy day.

Tsourekia is sort of the Greek version of a brioche, as in it is a sweet bread with eggs and sugar. Traditionally it is baked with red eggs in the centre. This year I'm living with my In-Laws and only helped to bake. So this recipe is my MIL's. The one thing about Greek's is if you ask for something, say a recipe, you get it, sometimes framed with the instructions to call if you need help, or they will just make it for you :)
This bread is amazing toasted with a coffee, and just the right thing to eat on a Saturday morning after the church Communion. Not too heavy, and not too light for the stomach. All the orthodox people that fast will understand the mad rush to the toilet if you get that balance wrong! Too much info??? It is also fantastic made into french toast, or bread and butter pudding. I suppose this is the European version of a hot cross bun.

My MIL's Tsoureki, had to guess at quantities/measurements cause she made a massive batch of 13 breads!

Will make 2 large loaves

1 tablespoon dry yeast, or use fresh
pinch of sugar
3/4-1 cup warmed full cream milk, every flour is different, so it may take more moisture
4 cups plain flour
2/3 cup caster sugar, she likes things sweet, I would add only a 1/3 cup
orange and lemon zest
2 teaspoon mahlepi,*
120 grams butter melted
3 eggs lightly beaten
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips, I only add this to one of the loaves and keep the other plain **


sesame seeds and flaked almonds for decorating, I would also add a couple red eggs to mine.

Start with proving the yeast. Add the pinch of sugar to the warm milk, then sprinkle the yeast over the top and mix well. Set it aside for 20 minutes to activate.

In a mixmaster add the flour, sugar, zest, mahlepi and yeast mixture to the bowl fitted with a dough hook and mix for a few minutes till the dough starts to come together. Add more milk or flour if needed. Then while the dough is mixing add the butter and eggs, one at a time. Mix this for about 10 minutes, if you own a Kitchenaid, then it will only take about 6 minutes. Set that aside to double, take about 1 hour, depends on the day.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead lightly for a few minutes, **add the choc chips. Then cut it in half, then in three's so you are left with 6 balls of dough.
roll the pieces into sausage like shapes, then plait them into a loaf shape. Set aside to double in size, about 1 hour. Preheat oven about 45minutes in to 210C.
Brush the tops with egg wash, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and almonds. Also this is when I would press a couple a red painted eggs into the plaits. Some are also decorated with an XB for Russian or a XA for Greek, meaning Christ has risen, before baking.
Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until it develops a nice crust, and sounds hollow when tapped on the base. It should have a lovely deep golden colour.



*Mahlepi is a spice ground from the pits of cherries, it can be found in a European deli It has a distinct flavour and really no substitute. But you can add cinnamon if you can't find it. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Middle Man



I realised something today, I'm a middle man. I don't have the balls to carry something through.

I'm the person who huff and puffs, shakes my head, or says something under my breath, not the person yelling with my fist in the air, or demanding someone get out of the way.

Today standing in line at Woolies, the self check out bit *, a woman with a trolley pushed in. I turned to the young woman behind me and said "what a rude woman!" but that's it, I didn't do anything about. Then all hell broke loose! The poor Woolies worker who stands there to monitor and help people, had to ask her to go to the back of a very long que. She stood there for a moment and demanded to stay. The young girl being me kept saying, "but we saw you push in!!!!!" pointing to me as well. You can imagine, im going all shades of RED! I don't like confrontation and this was escalating. Then the women with the trolley pulled the racist card, we all just looked at her, not knowing what to say. Then the poor lovely Woolies worker, grabbed her trolley and just pushed it out of the way. She then motioned to me to use that self checkout....SHIT, why was i next???? AND I HAD GEORGI WITH ME!!! I was so nervous someone was going to be hit, and with my luck it would be me.

The trolley women, pushed the trolley my way, missing me only cause the Woolies worker grabbed it, and she stormed off, spewing some sort of vile words in our direction, all in another language I was grateful to not understand.

All I fracken wanted were a few things for the baby! I quickly scanned my few items from my basket, not making any eye contact, and high tailed it out of there.

Since moving to the WEST, I have noticed people are a lot more confrontational out here. I know it is a little nuts to generalise, but I have had so many things like this happen to me. I'm so over it. I cannot wait to get out of this suburb. The sad thing is I love the food shopping here. There are a lot of European, Middle Eastern and Vietnamese foodie places that I love.

Am I being general, snobby even? Or have any of you noticed a difference in manners or attitude when living or even visiting different suburbs?


* NB: The self check out bit should NOT BE FOR PEOPLE WITH TROLLEY'S!!!!!! IT IS RIDICULOUS YOU DO NOT FIT LINING UP WITH A TROLLEY IN THE AILSE, GO TO A CHECKOUT PERSON ASAP!.....please.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cinnamon and Berry Granola












I love nothing better than muesli as a snack. 

I have it mostly in the afternoon, when the little one goes down for a nap, I go make a cup of tea, grab a small bowl, spoon in some Greek yoghurt, then a few spoonfuls of muesli. Its my time to sit and read blogs, or watch trashy TV, always addicted to Gossip Girl but recently Revenge. Anyway I find myself craving this snack on most days. 

I have not ever really liked any store bought ones as I find them super sweet, or lacking in ingredients, not enough nuts or fruit, or FLAVOUR for that matter! So one afternoon, I decided to make my own, thinking it would be ridiculously time consuming, and I would never want to do this again. How wrong I was. It is super easy. It is a matter of being organised, which I find I am pretty good at, since the little one came along. For me this granola is all about the clumps of nuts, cinnamon and coconut.

Makes a 1.75 litre container

2 ½ cup whole oats
150 grams dried berry mix
1/3 cup coconut flakes
½ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup whole almonds
½ cup whole cashews
¼- ½ cup pecans roughly chopped
1/3 cup whole pistachios
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup black sesame seeds
cinnamon to taste
1-2 tablespoons honey

I start with roasting all the nuts and theseeds, all except the sesame. Once they are roasted place in a large bowl, withthe sesame.

Set aside a small amount of each nut andseed, to make 1- 1 ½ cups in a small bowl. Add the coconut also to this bowl.Then sprinkle with cinnamon, I use at least 3 to four teaspoons, (its a lot butI like the cinnamon flavour to go through the muesli afterwards,) then spoonover as much honey as you like, I only used 1 tablespoon, I don’t like it toosweet. Mix well.
Then spread this mixture on a baking tray.Toast this for about 10 minutes on 180C, just to help the honey to caramelise.Set aside to cool slightly. Toss it around with a spoon, it’ll naturally sticktogether and form clumps, set this aside to cool completely.

While the oven is still on, I roast theoats. I like to keep 1 cup aside un-roasted, toss them through the largebowl. Roast the oats until they are slightly coloured, takes about 10 minutes,making sure to give it a toss every few minutes, so it doesn’t burn. Then throwthat into the large bowl also. Once this mixture has all cooled, add theberries, and the nutty clumps, toss really well. Store in an large glass jar,or container.

I love this as a snack with yogurt or inthe morning for breakfast with fresh berries, banana and milk. Its even delicious thrown into a banana bread mix! Most likely why we have none left...



I forgot to take a pic of the finished product, and we have since eaten the whole thing, so I will have to make more and add an updated pic!