Saturday, March 18, 2017

Weekend Cooking: Double choc zucchini bread

I'm not sure how you use your blog when it comes to sharing recipes Some times I use it to post recipes that I want to try, or food experiences I have had, but most of the time I use it to post recipes that I have tried and liked and want to make again, so want a place I can go where I can easily find the recipe that I am looking for.

A couple of weeks ago we had a morning tea, That wasn't all that unusual because if there is one thing we do in our department is eat well. Afterwards though, we were talking about recipes and I mentioned making chocolate zucchini bread and then came here to find the recipe and .....nada. It wasn't here. It didn't take me long to remember who had posted the recipe. It was the gracious and inspiring host, Beth Fish Reads, so here, with her permission is that recipe, this time saved on my blog so that I can find it again when I want to make it again in the, hopefully, near future.

I will say that I don't use the pecans because of the nut allergy we have in our house.

Double Choc Zucchini Bread


1 medium zucchini
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa (Dutch process is best)
½ teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan.

Grate or shred the zucchini; you should have a generous cup of squash. By hand, squeeze the squash to get out the excess liquid. (No need to go crazy here, it shouldn't be completely dry.)

Whisk the buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and eggs in a medium bowl. Add the zucchini. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa , espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring just until incorporated; do not over mix. Fold in the chocolate chips and about ¾ cup of the nuts.

Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and top with the remaining nuts. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes. Then remove from the pan and let cool completely before slicing.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Weekend Cooking: Apfelkuchen

I think I mentioned a couple of months ago that I have been watching a lot of UK chef Rick Stein's TV shows at the moment. I first bought one of his cook books back in the 1990s when I lived in the UK, so I guess I have been a fan for a while, but I have been particularly enjoying the combination of travel, culture, history and food that have been features of his most recent series.

One of those recent series has been the Long Weekends series, where he has visiting cities that are within a short flying distance from the UK, and not necessarily some of the better known places like Paris or Rome. Instead he has visiting places like Reykjavik, Vienna and Bordeaux.  In fact, the visit to Vienna had me craving really good weiner schnitzel for weeks, a craving I only just satisfied this week with an Italian version which was delicious.

This recipe comes from the episode where he visited Berlin. As soon as I saw this I knew that I wanted to try it. I should also have known that my son was not going to want to try it no matter how delicious it was, and that was confirmed in due course. I was, however, a little surprised when the reason why he wouldn't try it was because you shouldn't put fruit in cake. Since when? Guess my work mates are going to get a big chunk of cake tomorrow. Luckily, they are generally an appreciative audience!

So what is Apfelkuchen? It sounds so much more exotic than apple cake, but that is pretty much what it is! I definitely would make it again, but it won't be just for home because otherwise I will end up having to eat it all myself. I could easily do that, but I probably shouldn't!

Apfelkuchen (German Apple Cake)



2 dessert apples, peeled, cored and sliced into thin wedges
1 tbsp lemon juice
125g/4½oz butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
140g/5oz golden caster sugar
3 free-range eggs, at room temperature, beaten
225g/8oz plain flour
2 level tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
5 tbsp full-fat milk

For the topping

1½ tbsp demerara sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Method

Preheat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/Gas 3. Butter and line a 23cm/9in round cake tin.

Coat the apple wedges in the lemon juice and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar, using an electric hand mixer, until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until smooth. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well. Slowly add the milk, mixing well after each addition, until you have a smooth batter.

Transfer the batter to the cake tin. Arrange the apple slices, flat-side down, on the batter in a spiral pattern.

For the topping, mix together the demerara sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the batter.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 40–45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean and the top is golden-brown. Leave to cool for 15 minutes in the tin. Run a knife around the edges of the cake and turn it out of the tin onto a wire rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.


Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

David Hockney: Current

I'm not really much of an art aficionado. I often don't get what makes popular art popular, especially when it comes to contemporary art. Having said that, I am always interested in learning more and expanding the limited knowledge I do have.

I am very lucky to live in a city where large exhibitions happen on a regular basis, whether it be in art galleries or museums, so I do try to take advantage of those with the hope that I will find something I like and may be learn something along the way.

A couple of weeks ago I headed into the National Gallery of Victoria to see the David Hockney: Current exhibition which focuses on the British artist's works from the last 10 years. I guess I wasn't really sure what to expect but I was very pleasantly surprised because I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition.

I particularly enjoy seeing the way that the artist uses technology. A lot of his work is done on iPads or iPhones, and in a lot of cases he has recorded the artistic processes so that you can  sit and watch the art being created from initial strokes, to redesign, to completion.

One of the series is called 82 Portraits and a Still Life because, well, there are 82 portraits and a still life. I liked that the people being featured in the portraits varied from famous friends to his hairdresser. I

I came out of the exhibition feeling like I had enjoyed it rather than having to still try and work out exactly what the heck was going on in a lot of the pieces. I would definitely go and see another exhibition by this artist, without hesitation.

The exhibition finishes this weekend, ready to make way for the next big exhibition, which I am sure I will visit at some point

And of course, no visit to the NGV is complete without the obligatory feast of scones and jam and cream.




Tuesday, February 21, 2017

White Night 2017

A couple of years ago I went to White Night for the first time and really loved it but when I went last year it wasn't such a great experience. Now I could say that was because the displays weren't that great, but I think that the reality is that I was in the middle of a gall bladder attack and so it wouldn't have mattered how spectacular the displays were.

This year, though, was back to an amazing experience. We changed our strategy this year. Instead of going in just after dark, we didn't actually go in until around 11.30pm. I have to say I'm a bit old for this going out at 11.30 at night. And that's despite the fact that I had a nana nap before we went into the city. At least I'm still calling it a nana nap, but I am pretty sure that the fact that I laid down in bed with every intention of going to sleep and slept for a good 2 hours means that it was more a sleep than a nap. Not sure where that line is technically. I then didn't get home until 4.30. That would have been fine except I was going out the next morning too! More about that later maybe.

Last year they didn't have any projections on the facade of Flinders Street train station or on the buildings near the Forum so I was very glad to see that they were back this year. On the train station there was a projection with an indigenous theme talking about the fact that there are many nations within indigenous culture.


The next buildings we saw were on a stretch near the Forum building, one of my favourite building facades in the city. These buildings have a fairy tale theme which reminded me in many ways of the Fables series by Bill Willingham.







The Exhibition building is always a highlight and this year was no exception, although a little bit surprisingly, it wasn't may favourite thing this year. More on that at the end. The building really lends itself to projections. It is a beautiful building itself at the best of times, but when done well, it really is a spectacular canvas on which to paint a picture with light and sound.





One of my favourite places in Melbourne is the Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria. Normally it is a place where it is quiet, with stately green lamps filling the desk spaces but come White Night it is transformed into a canvas. This year we found ourselves under the waters of Port Philip Bay in the Sea Dragons Lair.



My highlight this year though was definitely the Pyrophone Juggernaut. We originally arrived just as a show ended so we had to wait over an hour for the next show, but it was totally worth the wait.

The juggernaut is a fire organ, where the percussionists use gas and flames to play organ pipes. That is such a meagre explanation for the experience - amazing performances of percussion on unusual instruments, drama and spectacle. Amazing!






Not everything was a hit. There were a couple of things that we saw that I was underwhelmed by and then reading through some of the news I realised that there was lots of good stuff that we just didn't see. I'm not sure that I have quite figured out how to see everything in any one night. We do tend to go to the Exhibition building and the Library. May need to be brave and venture into new parts of the city. Next year, which I am already looking forward to!

Now to work on the definition of nana nap vs sleep.


Wednesday, February 08, 2017

What if you don't really do popcorn?

The last time I posted about going to the movies I called the post Pass the Popcorn Please, but the reality is that I don't really do popcorn. I don't dislike it. It's more that the giant buckets of popcorn you get at the movies are a) too expensive and b) too big!  I do like a choc top icecream but I have usually finished eating it way before the movie starts to that hardly counts does it.

Anyway, I've been to see a few movies since my last post. Here are my thoughts on them.

I went to see this because it's set in WWII and I was also looking for a movie that would appeal to both me and a male of the species, and I think it hit the spot. Even though I had seen the trailer, it didn't really play out the way I thought it would which I guess is a good thing unless you don't actually up with satisfaction. It is interesting because there are some war related scenes in there, but it wasn't really all war, all the time. Marion Cotillard is gorgeous and some of her costumes were very nice, and Brad Pitt is, well, Brad Pitt so it was easy on the eye. I've never really got the  Brad Pitt thing, or the Ryan Gosling thing either I guess come to think of it, but he was good in this.




A couple of weekends ago I went on a road trip to Canberra with a couple of friends. We did lots of very cool stuff, exhibitions, art galleries, food and sight seeing, and on one night we headed to the movies to see this. When I first saw the trailer for this I was trying to place who the Australian actor was in the lead role, so I was very surprised when it turned out that the main actor was Dev Patel. He totally nailed the Aussie accent, and lets face it, there have been some great names who have tried and failed in that regard (Meryl Streep as Lindy Chamberlain anyone?)

One of the good things about going to the movies while on holidays is that I didn't have to drive and so I thought I would be totally decadent and have a glass of wine during the movie. Great plan....until I knocked it over when it was still 3/4 full.

So what about the film you ask? I enjoyed it a lot. It was a very moving story about a young Indian boy who gets separated from his family and ends up being adopted by an Australian family and then needs to go back and find his home. This one is based on a true story, and any film based on a true story is instantly a degree better than it would have been if it was just made up. And I'm not sure that you could necessarily believe the story if it was made up. It was very moving, and the final scenes were very emotional




Last night this was our choice to go and see, mainly because it was the main move that we both had some interest in seeing. I was hoping to see Live by Night but it looks like we may have missed it unfortunately I am just getting to know my movie watching companion and so it felt like it could be a movie that had them not necessarily enjoying it, but I think he did.

It was once again a very moving story, and Casey Affleck's performance was stellar.  As the story unfurled to the point that we learned why Lee was so reluctant to return to his home town under any circumstances, no matter how much his nephew wanted to stay, you couldn't help but feel for Lee, to understand why he was so melancholy and angry all at once.

I was surprised by how humourous the film was, particularly in it's observations about life with a teenage boy who is dealing with unexpected loss the best way he could.

It was slow in parts, but I can totally see why the movie and the performances of the cast are receiving so many accolades during prize season.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The movie list

I mentioned making a list of the movies I wanted to see over the next few months and so here it is!

Coming out soon


Loving - Feels like I have been waiting for this film to be released for months.

A Monster Calls - Bring the tissues!

Beauty and the Beast - I think I might do this one in Gold Class.

Hidden Figures - Story sounds fascinating

Moonlight - Was interested in seeing this after the Golden Globes where it did so well.

Rules Don't Apply - Not sure why but it looks good.

Manchester by the Sea -

Jasper Jones - Film of the book by Aussie author Craig Silvey

Fences - Don/t need to say anything more than Denzel Washington

Tulip Fever - Read the book a few years ago so interested to hear that it

Already out and I still need to see

Lion - Nothing to do with the movie, but Dev Patel's Aussie accent sounds very good

Rosalie Blum - We keep on saying we are going to go and see some foreign films but never quite get around to it.

Saw yesterday 


Allied

Movies I definitely don't want to see


50 Shades Darker


What are you looking forward to seeing soon?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Pass the popcorn please

So, here's a thought that I should have considered a year ago. While I am slowly getting back to reading (I think), I do go to the movies quite regularly, so I could, you know, talk about the movies I have seen. I have already been lucky enough to see 3 very enjoyable movies so far this year, and there are so many films coming out that I want to see. So many. Maybe I need to create a list to keep track.

Firstly, I saw LaLa Land. I know that it is getting mixed reviews from my amongst my friends, but I enjoyed it. I loved the homage to the magic of jazz, musicals, and Hollywood. I loved the way that the movie was shot, the colour and movement. I must confess I was a little surprised that it is a current setting. I think I was expecting that it was set in the 1950s or 60s but no. There was a particularly fun little section in the film which featured some 80s music which was amusing and enjoyable.

At first, I wasn't keen on the ending  of the . The friend I went with and I both agreed that we were left feeling a little bit melancholy at the end of it, but maybe it had the effect of leaving you with something to think about rather than walking out of the cinema and just forgetting about it. Or maybe the ending didn't quite work. Maybe one day I will decide, after watching it again.





The next film I saw as A United Kingdom.

I am part of a group that meets up once a month to watch movies. It's kind of like book club, but for movies instead. Part of the reason we meet on a Monday is that the cinema we go to is super cheap on that day, but is also central for us all. One of the good things is that we all take turns to choose the movie. This means that we have on occasion seen movies that we didn't like, or that we did like despite the fact that we possibly wouldn't have chosen to see it ordinarily, some Australian films, some mainstream films, some foreign films, some documentaries. Basically, it's help broaden all of our horizons.

I really enjoyed this choice. It is the story of the last king of Bechuanaland (modern day Botswana) who fell in love with an ordinary English white girl in London just after the end of World War II. It covers the opposition that they faced both in the UK and in Africa when they decided to marry, but also the constitutional crisis that it prompted in the Commonwealth, particularly in respect to the fact that neighbouring South Africa was introducing the policy of apartheid at the time.

One of the things that I didn't make the connection to until very late in the film was that it was about Botswana, but as soon as I did make that connection it made me think of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. The main character in that book often talked about the beloved president of Botswana and it was this man that she was talking about.

One of the movies I am looking forward to seeing when it comes out here is Loving, which is another film about mixed race relationships. I think I am attracted to these stories because my ex is African, or maybe I just love a good story where love overcomes the odds, and if it's based on true life...even better.




The third movie I have seen this year is Jackie, which stars Natalie Portman, and tells the story of what happened in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of her husband, President Kennedy.

Given the subject matter, it is quite a heavy movie, but it is so well done that it didn't feel overwhelmingly heavy. Natalie Portman was excellent in her portrayal of a woman facing the loss of her husband, and to a degree her identity as the first lady.

One of the things that was a bit odd about going to see this movie was a bit of a drama around allocated seating. I know that it is pretty much normal now for cinemas to have allocated seating but I really don't get why it has to be this way. That is especially the case when the ticketing system breaks down and they still insist on manually allocating the seating. Whhhyyy. Once we got inside there were all sorts of issues as people were complaining that people were in their seats etc etc, It's not like there weren't any empty seats because there were, but they wanted their exact seats, to the point where one woman refused to move one seat over to help resolve the issues because she had paid for THIS seat. I'm pretty sure you paid for a seat, not that exact one, but never mind. One of the bonuses with all this dramas was that the movies were all running late, so they chopped out all the ads and the previews. It's not uncommon for those to go for 15 minutes or more these days, so that was a welcome omission for me.



And actually...don't worry about the popcorn. I will have a couple of pieces if someone else has some but other than that I am not particularly fussed about it.

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