DIY chocolate Paddle Pops – vegan

Vegan choc coconut ice pops / popsicles

Spring in Perth this year has been unseasonably warm, and for me, this kind of weather prompts nostalgia for the summers of my childhood: water slides, running through sprinklers, and icy poles / ice blocks (apparently known as ice pops, ice lollies or freeze pops elsewhere in the world).

One of my favourite childhood treats, the chocolate Paddle Pop, is a smooth chocolate ice-cream on a stick, and top of my To-Veganise list now that I have a freezer mould.

There’s no shortage of vegan chocolate ice pop recipes online, but I decided to start with this one – I subbed cacao powder for the cocoa, brown rice syrup for the honey (and used double the amount, actually), and after 5 minutes they were in the freezer. So far I’m finding them very rich and chocolatey – I think a little more vanilla would be great – but a good base and source of inspiration.

What memories does summer bring back for you?


Red lentil Bolognese

Pantry red lentil Bolognese

I love lentils for many reasons: they last for ages, they’re versatile, they’re a cheap source of protein and iron, and are much quicker to cook than your average bean. Red lentils in particular are great to have on hand for a quick meal, as they only take around half an hour to cook.

If your pantry’s anything like mine, this comforting dish won’t even require a trip to the shops.

Red Lentil Bolognese sauce (Serves 4)

2 C red lentils
2 C water
1 T olive oil
1 t onion flakes
1 t minced garlic
1/4 C tomato paste
2 C beef-style vegetarian stock, prepared (I use 1 t of Massel stock powder to 2 C water)
1 T red wine vinegar
Italian-style herbs (oregano, thyme, basil etc.) to taste
salt and pepper to taste

1. Put lentils and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to prevent sticking, cover, and turn down to medium heat. Cook until water is absorbed – around 5 minutes.

2. Stir in remaining ingredients, and continue to simmer, covered, for another 10-15 minutes or until lentils are soft. Make sure you keep stirring occasionally, as red lentils are notorious for sticking if you leave them too long unattended.

3. Check the seasoning and texture of your sauce, adding more water and/or cooking on low heat for a while longer if you like, to achieve your desired consistency.

4. Serve with your favourite pasta, on toast, or however you like it. Enjoy!

Soup week

I come from a family of six, and grew up learning to cook enough to feed four hungry kids, two adults, and then some. The whole family was catered for most efficiently on soup night: my general method was to get out a huge pot, pile it up with every vegetable that managed to catch my eye in the supermarket, add in a few kinds of protein, some grains and seasoning, and top it up with water.

One of the best things about making a giant pot of soup is the leftovers. Well, this is the kind of soup you can eat for a week without getting bored, because it contains every vegetable you’ve ever loved, and more besides. The flavour of each incarnation is a little different depending on the ratios of vegetables chosen, but it always tastes like ‘vegetable soup’, or maybe ‘minestrone’ if I’ve chucked in a can of tomatoes.

This is still my brain’s default soup-making method, and since I’m now only cooking for two, and have a slow-cooker of finite size to learn how to use, I need to do a little pruning. My mission this week is to try and make a few different flavours of soup, by limiting myself to one or two star vegetables (plus the ubiquitous carrot, celery and onion) at a time.

Wish me luck.

Wash day

Wash day

We had our first real rain on Saturday, almost a month into Autumn. It was so good: the scent of wet earth and newness, the drumming sound on the car windshield, the cool grey skies and the chill in the air.

I love almost everything that comes with it: a cool change, at long last; the end of another fierce Australian summer; soup and hot chocolate and cosy indoor evenings; an inbuilt excuse to avoid leaving the house (for all those extroverts out there – the introverts get it); but most importantly, a chance to bring out the handknits. Last year’s go-to cardigans and cowls, beanies and blankies come out of hiding, get washed and aired and reloved in time for another season.

The evenings are not yet cool enough to contemplate getting out the hot water bottle and flannel sheets, but when they come I’ll be ready.

Blankies for all.

I fell in love with the process of blankie-making in 2007, when I managed to pull together a couch-sized chevron throw over the period of a few stealthy months. I’d made a couple of little lap rugs prior, but this was the first project I had really invested much time into. I enjoyed the weight of the project (both literally and figuratively), and the sense of achievement when it was complete. I found working the repetitive stitch pattern soothing, and choosing the next colour in the sequence was always a little thrill.

Since then I’ve completed eight blankies, four of which were completed over the last few years. It’s the kind of project I keep coming back to: for the comfort, the ease, and the endless variation of colour, texture and technique. There are three things required of a good blankie: warmth, size, and durability. The rest is all play.

One would think that in 2014, wee millenials would be too sophisticated for the humble blankie: it’d be like expecting them to be delighted by shelter or potable water. But various test cases (i.e. my nieces and nephew) indicate that blankie appeal is still strong, at least among the young. To have their very own blankie, especially one made especially for them, seems to be a particular thrill (upon receipt) and comfort (ever after). And as long as my near and dear appreciate the objects of my labour – well, I’ll keep labouring.

A wild ride

El Lebowski

I don’t usually mark New Year’s Eve in any special way, nor have I ever made resolutions with any conviction, but I can’t deny that over the past few years the start of a new one always seems to affect me whether I like it or not.  I find myself reflecting on where I am and where I want to be, and more importantly, who I am and who I want to be.

In 2012 I discovered Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and began to notice my patterns of negative self-talk/ self-belief, and in working to change this, have begun to feel more comfortable in my own skin.

At the beginning of this year I heard about people quitting sugar, read some books, and decided to try it.  After I stopped craving the sweetness and the afternoon pick-me-up, my eating patterns became more stable and my skin is clearer.

In February I started learning about introversion, particularly the fact that introverts often recharge by spending time alone, and find over-stimulation draining.  I read anecdotes and case studies and felt like I was beginning to understand myself in a whole new way.

I enrolled in a six-week introductory workshop on creative writing, and loved every minute of it.  For me this was like coming home, one more piece of the jigsaw slotting into place.  I am an introvert, and I like to write.

The past few months have been a time of uncertainty and stress for me while I looked at where I want to be next, which way I want to head career-wise. Then it was job applications, interviews, more stress, and then finally, last week, a job offer I was only too pleased to accept.

All of a sudden, without that uncertainty hanging over my head, I feel like I’ve got space in my brain again, room and energy to feel my way back to that creative space.

I’m knitting again, thinking about resurrecting an empty old storefront, and maybe writing a pattern or two.

How is everyone? It’s been a while.

Twenty twelve.

Fair Isle loop

In the year just ended, I:

    started reading graphic novels;
    grew to love Twitter (much to my surprise);
    discovered that I almost always love a documentary;
    learned the joys of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (via this book), which has already had life-changing implications for me;
    travelled to Sydney twice;
    found some new favourite restaurants here in Perth;
    started eating quinoa;
    became addicted to homemade nut milk (sparked by watching this video);
    quit the daily caffeine habit, so that I can still enjoy coffee a few times a week (but without the annoying withdrawals);
    knit myself a jumper, and a few other things;
    gave myself permission to give up crochet;
    got my hair cut short, and 6 months later started growing it out again;
    started studying, stopped studying, and:
    helped put on a free Christmas Day lunch for around 1500 people.

2012 was an exciting and challenging year for me personally and professionally, and I feel like I’m at a very different place now than the same time last year. My plans for this year include refocusing on knitwear design (something I haven’t done much of since 2010), challenging myself to quit sugar for 8 weeks (I’ve just started reading this e-book), and thinking about cutting down the physical and psychological clutter in my life. But, if there’s one thing I learned in 2012, it’s that it’s okay for plans to change.

What did you learn in 2012?