Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cranberry bread

Today I was on snack duty for choir and so I made some cranberry bread - one with and one without walnuts. Cranberry bread is bread in the same sense that banana bread is bread; ie not very. It was very well received and as always people seem surprised it was vegan (why does everyone assume assume vegan=inferior). Since a couple of people have shown interest in the recipe I thought I would add it here. The original was from "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" and I made some minor adaptations to make it vegan.

Cranberry bread.

In a saucepan put in 2 cups of fresh cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar and 4 desert spoons of orange juice (If you are using an actual orange also put the rind in - I admit I just used Tropicana extra pulp juice). Over a low-medium heat cooked stirring until most of the berries burst. This will take about 5-7 minutes.

In a bowl make the dry ingrediants: 2 1/2 cups wholemeal flour, 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp baking soda and 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, a pinch or two of salt. Add the wet: 1/2 cup soy milk (or rice/almond/etc), 1/2 cup canola oil . and mix through. Add the cranberries and mix.Stir through walnuts here if you wish. Finally (just before putting in the oven) add 2 desert spoons of vinegar - this will react with the baking soda/powder and make it fluffy.

Bake in 375 F oven for about an hour.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Curry and Cobbler

Last night Laurie and I had Jessica and Jenny over for dinner. The plan was to make the yummy curry that I made for girls night with Jessica so she would know how to make it (she had previously asked for the recipe). It went well except there was perhaps too much tumeric. For perpetuity here is the recipe (this makes enough for 6 or 5 really big servings I would think):

Eggplant, chick pea and lentil curry

Brown rice
an onion diced
few cloves garlic chopped fine
an eggplant cubed (about 1-2 cm on each side)
various seeds which must include caraway and fennel dry roasted
various spices must include cumin, turmeric. Recommend also cinnamon, coriander and ginger
can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup red lentils

1. Put on brown rice
2. Start to sweat and fry onion in olive oil and after some time add garlic and eggplant.
3. Dry roast (in a pan with no oil) the seeds till they smell great and are slightly browned.
4. Add seeds, spices, hot water, chick peas and lentils.
5. Cook cover on a medium heat for around 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

I also had bought rhubarb the day before and had strawberries which due to stupidity on packing methods for freezing had to be used all at once so some sort of baked fruity thing was on the agenda. Looking through the "Vegetarian cooking for everyone" given to Laurie and I by his parents I found the American classic of the cobbler. It is like a crumble but the crumble mixture has no oats and is slightly more cakey. Really easy to make. I admit mine (below) is a veganised version. This was more than 4 people should eat but after seconds we managed to pull it off.

Fruit Cobbler:

Mix up some flour (1/4 cup), brown sugar (1/2 cup), citrus juice (1-2 tbsp) and cinnamon (1 tsp) with 6-8 cups of fruit cut up, and put in the bottom and then you dot on lumps of cobbler batter to form an uneven topping. Batter is flour (1 1/2 cups), baking soda (1/2 tsp), baking powder (1 tsp), s baking soda (1/2 tsp), baking powder(1 tsp), salt (1/2 tsp) alt (1/2 tsp), sugar (1/3 cup), oil (1/2 cup), vanilla (1/2 tsp) and soy milk (1/2 cup).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Macular Degeneration and the morality of fats

My great Aunt Dot has macular degeneration and so my family for a while now has been interested in the possible effects of diet on this condition (not only for her but also because there is a genetic component and I sure as hell don't want to go blind).

For ages I have been told that olive oil is the best fat and otherwise we should have butter as it is "pure" whatever that means. Vegetable oils are absolutely prohibited. It seems that the evidence is shaky and inconsistent. What is a vegetable oil anyway if olive oil isn't considered. We were all under the impression that canola oil was bad.

After some internet research I believe we were mistaken. Yes, there was a study in the US which had a link between some vegetable fat consumption and increased risk but it including in that list fats that were partially hydrogenated (particularly nasty industrial procedure) which is not a factor in Australia. Indeed similar studies in Australia did not had the same conclusion. There seems to be conflicting evidence. There is a lack of clarity in what is deemed "vegetable oil".

Anyway, all fat is bad some are worse than others is the only consensus. Factors that were brought up in numerous places is how unsaturated the oil is and whether it contains omega-3 and/or omega-6.

I have included some website links. The first is from the Medical Journal of Australia.

Lots of good stuff there but here is a snippet:

In the Australian Blue Mountains Eye Study, a cross-sectional population-based study, a borderline statistically significant increased risk of early AMD with higher total fat intake (OR, 1.6; P trend = 0.08) and monounsaturated fat intake (OR, 1.5; P trend = 0.05) was found. There was also an increased risk (OR, 2.7; P trend = 0.04) of late AMD with higher cholesterol intake (animal fat).29 Although vegetable fats as a group were not investigated, they found polyunsaturated fats, which are derived mainly from vegetable fats, to be protective (OR, 0.4; P trend = 0.07) for late AMD. More recently, results from another Australian prospective cohort study found no relationship between polyunsaturated fats (vegetable fats) and incident cases of AMD, but found omega-3 fatty acids to be protective for early AMD (OR, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2–0.8).30

Based on the limited data from the US, there has been publicity in Australia urging people to avoid vegetables oils, particularly margarine, arguing that they cause AMD and encouraging people to eat butter (a saturated animal fat) instead. With the limited, often conflicting, information regarding fats and the risk of AMD, there appear to be no grounds to support any such public health message at this stage. However, it still remains clear that saturated fats are the main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol levels, and groups promoting heart health strongly recommend limiting saturated fat intakes. Saturated fats are found in mainly animal fats and in some plant oils (coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter). This message is still particularly pertinent for people concerned about AMD, given the possible links between CVDs and AMD outlined above.

Thus, while it is desirable to advocate a public health message of a low-fat diet in general, a specific recommendation regarding certain fats and AMD is not based on consistent findings at this stage.

Another one this time from America.


Late in 2001, Dr. Seddon and her colleagues at Harvard University reported another startling finding about nutrition and AMD. They found that people whose diets have the right ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have less macular degeneration than those whose diets are skewed. The real bombshell, though, is that most of us are eating skewed diets--very skewed diets. We get five times more omega-6 than we should and hardly any omega-3 at all. Since omega-6 and omega-3 compete with each other in our bodies, what little omega-3 we get hasn't got a prayer of protecting our retinas, which is one of its jobs. It turns out that the rods and cones of our macula need a certain amount of omega-3 to function properly. This may be a major reason that so many of us are winding up with accumulated waste in our maculae and AMD.

Fatty acids are fat molecules found in saturated fats such as butter and in unsaturated fats such as safflower and olive oil. We all know by now that if we eat large quantities of saturated fats, we'll clog our arteries and we'll wind up as candidates for a heart attack. As a result, many people have turned to vegetable oils for a healthier diet. But large quantities of common vegetable oils--like corn, safflower, and soybean oil--may increase our risk of macular degeneration because they are chock-full of omega-6 fatty acids.

You don't have to eat fried food or use lots of vegetable oil in your cooking to be getting too much omega-6, because these oils are key ingredients in just about every commercial food product on the market, especially low-fat foods such as crackers, sports bars, and microwave popcorn. I recently checked every label in a food mart and found that the only products in the whole store that didn't contain omega-6-rich vegetable oils were the ketchup, mustard, and relish. Everything else that came in a box, bag, can, or package contained omega-6 oils, including the Ben & Jerry's ice cream. To reduce your omega-6 consumption, therefore, you need to avoid packaged foods with vegetable oil listed in the ingredients.

Our Heroes: Olive, Canola, Fish, and Flaxseed Oils

The right ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is 3:1, which means that we need to consume approximately three times as much omega-6 as omega-3. So what oils should we use? The answer is monounsaturated oils, such as olive and canola oil for their omega-6 fatty acids, and fish oil and flaxseed oil for their omega-3 fatty acids.


For cooking, use good-quality olive or canola oil. These oils contain high levels of oleic acid, a monounsaturated oil that tolerates heat and light much better than polyunsaturated vegetable oils do, so cooking won't significantly degrade its nutritional content. If you have a recipe that calls for another oil, check with your health-food store. Some of the companies that produce high-quality olive and canola oils also have lines of oleic-rich safflower, sesame, almond, corn, and peanut oils that you can use, especially for baking.

Another American one which had some interesting things to say about dairy and meat (and again says, for omega reasons put canola as "good").
It has:

The Bad
Of the food sources, intake of beef, pork, or lamb as a main dish increases the risk of macular degeneration. More than 1 serving/week of beef, pork, or lamb as a main dish is associated with a 35% increased risk of macular degeneration as compared with less than 3 servings/month. A high intake of margarine is also significantly related to an increased risk of macular degeneration. 1 serving per day of high-fat dairy food (whole milk, ice cream, hard cheese, or butter) increases risk of macular degeneration progression by 1.91 times. 1 serving per day of meat food (hamburger, hot dogs, processed meat, bacon, beef as a sandwich, or beef as a main dish) increases risk of macular degeneration progression by 2.09 times. 1 serving per day of processed baked goods (commercial pie, cake, cookies, and potato chips) increases risk of macular degeneration progression by 2.42 times.

A really good argument to go veg (with no dairy).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Loose Ends

So I guess I have just lost puff. The holiday has ended but the blog unfinished. There are still several days not covered. I can't be bothered with photos so you will have to imagine.

I can't remember where in Vienna I left off. Laurie and I did not achieve maximum touristing efficiency there anyway. We had a little of the not-another-grand-building syndrome. Walk ten seconds in pretty much any direction anywhere in the old city in Vienna and you see some grand building. It is very much "look at us we are the capital of a massive empire at the turn of the 20th century" (or is it 19th - I mean around 1900 in case of confusion). Unfortunately almost every site has some part they are either restoring or cleaning. There is scaffolding with pictures of the building behind on top everywhere. I don't think anyone has seen the entirety of St Stephan's at the same time for many years.

Laurie and I went to the Belvedere which is a grand residence. It also is an art gallery - we reckoned we would only manage one site and here we could kill birds with one stone as the saying goes. There were also gardens here (though not very extensive). These gardens were of the manicured, pebble path variety with plants forming patterns. Laurie reaffirmed he would not make a good 19th gardener by remarks such as "I hate pebbles, even dead grass is better". We both prefered the grounds at Nymphemburg - something more woody which you could even get lost in.

We then went to London. Here we stayed with Julian which was great. He took us on a walking tour of the city center one day and the next we all went up to Cambridge (where he was for a year).

I really like the center of London. It has a mix of old and new. Dynamic and alive and at the same time filled with a rich history. I prefer this to have an old city and then the business side separate.

Going the Cambridge was fun. The main activity was punting along the Cam river. Being England it was raining alot but we were prepared and sheltered under bridges and ate a picnic in the boat. Although the individual parts are very pretty I actually prefer Chicago - I like a main quad.

Anyway that is a rushed conclusion to our Europe trip.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vienna - assorted photos and monday

Laurie mentioned our quest for washing. We were very smelly- or at least our clothes were. Here is a photo of the green washing machine place with huuuge dryers.

On Monday we met up with Andy who was the singing teacher at Zell. We met at Demel with is a Konditorei which once provided sweet baked goods to the emperor. They claim to still e using the same recipes. Inside you can see parts of the kitchen area. We saw...
After cake (which was indulgent and good) we all went to the chapel for the old townhall. It has two alters as displayed in the photo below. One is anglican and the other old catholic (a sect that splintered off the catholic church in response to the pope saying he was infallible about a century ago. It was originally two separate chapels - one for the town hall and one of some guy who lived next door but then the town hall bought his place and tore down the wall between. The organ here is own of the oldest in the city. Andy was singing in a concert here and waned us to see the place and attend some of a rehearsal as we left for London before the concert occurred.
Laurie mentioned horses - I think. There are a lot here. The smell of poo can sometimes be overpowering. I enjoyed this scene though.
The horse drawn carriages as a symptom of the important and omnipresence of tourism stuff. Another are the Mozart concerts with the corresponding dudes dressed up trying to sell you tickets - in particular outside Stephan's Dom. Most have the same red coat and wig. In the back of this photo you can also see a souvenir shop which seems appropriate.
Shall post more on Vienna soon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Arrived in Vienna

It is now Monday morning and we are posting from a Starbucks in the heart of the Hofburg (Imperial Palace) in Vienna. There are horses and carriages everywhere. After a ridiculously long final concert at Zell (we broke for an interval after a 2h 40min first half, starting at 8pm) we were kindly given a lift by a guitarist (and computational physicist!) at the Seminar who lives on the outskirts of Vienna. This saved us a train ride. We spent about half an hour at his place (next to corn and sunflower farms, very picturesque) as he told us what to do in Vienna and while we waited for his harpsichord, spinet and seven guitars to arrive back in the van which was coming from Zell. Once those arrived safely, he gave us a lift to the edge of the underground network, from which it was a short ride to our hotel (next to the historic part of town). It was urgent that we wash clothes so we rushed to one of the few laundromats we could find by Google (further hindered by it being Sunday and everything being closed). Green & Clean was very bright and efficient, and had extremely large dryers---photos to come---although the purely German signage was very frustrating to one American tourist we found pacing around waiting for his clothes to finish. In the mean time we had ice cream at a little Italian gelateria and 1 Euro pizza at a local turkish-kebab place; clearly we were not in the touristy part of town. By the time we got back to our hotel it was lateish and rainy, so we didn't set out again that night, although perhaps we didn't have enough to eat as I woke up at 6 am hungry. Nothing is open in Europe at 6am --- perhaps reasonably --- although after some searching I found a bakery, ate a croissant and a coffee, and went back to sleep for a bit. Now it is 10 am and sunny, so we will ascend the Stephansdom! We will be meeting Andy (the singing teacher) for lunch and to hear part of a rehearsal for a concert of his in an apparently antique and curious church with a very unusual organ. More news to come. Oh also while Kate was sleeping I looked up Australian politics and was pleased to see the shine come off Tony Abbott a few notches. Byee!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


"About time" I hear you say. And you are right but forgive us as we have been very busy rehearsing and it amazing how tiring making music can be.

We had one jam packed day of touristing in Salzburg. (I don't know why this is blue and underlined - blogger is sometimes a little mysterious.)

In the morning we went up to the large fortress on the hill which was constructed over many centuries but certainly has a medieval feel. We walked up instead of the almost vertical railway (which we took back down). Besides being of interest in of itself. From the fortress there are great views of Salzburg below. Here is one of the few Kate AND Laurie photos. We learnt on the audio tour that Salzburg was named after the salt deposits nearby, that were fundamental in the success of the fortress (never successfully sieged - it was only once surrendered and that was to Napoleon) as salt (Salz) was the major preservative.

A comment on the audio tour. In order have tours in several languages simultaneously they had head sets which could be programmed to different languages and even a kids orientated version, and then forty people would go to the same rooms at the same time and hear their version. I am undecided in whether I think this is very smart and practical or saddened by the technologising of it all. People should perhaps just cope with the german (they are in Austria after all).

These photos are out of order so later you will see an organ which is in the fortress. It has no keyboard. Initially it could only play an F major chord and then later they added the barrel which allows premade tunes.

Below is a picture taken at the end of our day. We saw a free filming of La Traviato, filmed at the Salzburg festival in 2005. It was very good. Unfortunately very little of the italian was translated to german so the plot made little sense. Wikipedia helped us out there. That organ I promised you:
One of the places we saw was a lovely little cemetery. Laurie likes fonts as probably you are aware. The following photo was taken because of the font.
Wandering the streets is an important touristing activity, especially since we were a little sick of museums and the like. There are very strict rules in the Old Town for signs and shop fronts. Even McDonalds must uphold them. Overall Salzburg is a nice place but a little too touristy for its own good. It is hard to escape to souvenir and mozart kugel shops. That said we also experienced some gems - like the coffee house in the style of Viennese coffee houses that was frequented by Constanze (Mozarts wife) after his death when she lived in Salzburg with her second husband. It is still around and, I think, very much as it was then. Also the high hills on the edge of the city center are effectively free of development. We enjoyed walking through paths, seeing woods, cows and older houses. We did see some of the locations for sound of music. It didn't interest me much, I am glad we didn't do a tour.