Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Token New Year Post

As I sit in my desk chair at 1 in the morning, I have one thought: Why can I not think of another title for this post that isn't '2015'? 

Seems to me like avoiding clichés in a post that in itself is cliché, is a bit redundant. So in a strategic move to seem nonchalant over the whole matter, the current title was born. 

I would use a few words to describe the whole of 2014. It was full of firsts, new friendships, discoveries, lessons learnt. It was also turbulent and at times incredibly hard, sad and challenging. It was home to certain stages and events in my life that made me realise a lot of important things. As a result, it's led to a compilation of resolutions I know I will achieve this year. Of course no one needs to wait till the new year to make changes in their life, but a lot of people underestimate just how much we could all use a clean slate – and often a new year provides just that. 

My resolutions this year are probably the first I have ever seriously made, and they include everything. Fitness goals, like getting into acro-yoga and rejuvenating my flexibility; altruistic goals, like do more volunteering and be nicer to my mother (no, really); educational goals, like be more fluent in Swedish and Spanish. I do also believe one of my resolutions is literally 'Drink more water'...because hydration is important, and water is delicious. And I won't get into my more personal resolutions, but I will say, if there's something we can all do, it's focus more on our friendships and strive to form new ones. Because if 2015 doesn't turn out how you wish it did, those are the dudes who are going to help you through it. So don't be a Debbie Downer or a Negative Nancy and make time for them. 

I also wanted to squeeze in as much corn and cheese into one post, that way we don't have to deal with it later on, and just say thank you to everybody who reads this blog, it does mean a lot to me. And speaking of, posting more on the blog, and adding a little variety, will definitely be on the agenda this year. I think I might even go out and buy one of those paper things with all the days and months of the year in them (a calendar I think???) and start being a little more organised. 

Last, but not least (re: clichés), I do have a final little thing to share. I am currently working on a novella that I hope to get published... It's a work in progress, but definitely something I am aiming to be finished by the end of the year. I'm planning to perhaps write a little post on it, talking about its themes and style, maybe even share an excerpt. 

Aaaaand that's a wrap folks. Hope you achieve your resolutions and have a lovely month of January. 

// Margot Ana 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Wild Rice Bowls

Last night– after I finished work and awarded the last customer her purchase, who, by the way, as a 40-something was cooler and more fashionable than I will ever be (I talked to her in my cool, low, nonchalant voice, admiring her khaki muscle tee, linen pants and white Birkenstocks)– I headed to the supermarket to buy some ingredients I was missing for the wild rice bowls I'd be making that night. One of those ingredients being actual wild rice. Not realising just how much wild rice expands, I bought four 150g packets (for four people) and then wallowed in my despair at the checkout when I realised how much Woolworths and Coles swindle you for simple groceries. 

But all was fine and good in the world, when I arrived home, unloaded the shopping and whacked on some jazz to get me in the mood for a cooking bonanza*. 

*Clarification: Cooking bonanza involved less actual cooking and more of me painstakingly getting seeds out of pomegranates. 

And it all brings us to here. Presenting, Wild Rice Bowls, featuring: walnuts, kale, pomegranate and fetta. Mostly delectable, partly orgasmic, and none of the bloated/heavy feels. (Guess what I'm having for lunch today kids, that's right, LEFTOVERS.)

The salad dressing also kicked ass, make it ahead of time so the flavours have time to get to know each other and mingle. Click here for the recipe. 

xx Margot Ana 


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Good Ol' Hal

You guys know I'm a sucker for marketing okay. It sucks me in, I'll admit it. And when halloween rocks around the corner, I get as excited as a tween watching American Pie for the first time. Carving pumpkins (and spending some serious dough while we're at it, they are not cheap this time of year), pumpkin spice everything (but actually. every. thing.) and homemade apple cider...

Which brings us here: A pretty self explanatory guide to carving *cue informercial voice* YOUR VERY OWN PUMPKIN ! Oh, and an apple cider recipe. This kind, not this kind. I could understand how that could be a little misleading. We will, unfortunately, not be mixing up dodgy alcohol in our kitchens today, sorry guys.

xx Margot Ana

Homemade Apple Cider

What you will need: 
- A dozen apples, washed, quartered and cored (I used a mix of granny smith and red delicious)
- 1/2 a cup to a cup of brown sugar (depending on how sweet you'd like it)
- 4 cinnamon sticks (halved)
- 1 tablespoon of cloves
- 1 whole nutmeg (chopped)
- Cheesecloth

Optional: 1 valencia orange, sliced in wheels to garnish your drink (you can also cook the orange with the rest of the ingredients, I prefer it fresh and added in at the last minute)

Place your apples in a large stock pot, and pour in enough water to cover the fruit. Turn on the heat to medium.

Place your spices in a smaller piece of cheesecloth, to keep them together while your cider boils - they will be much easier to remove later. I used another thin piece of cheesecloth as string.

Put in your brown sugar.

And your spices.

Put the lid on, bring the heat up to high, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat again and let simmer for about an hour.

Mash up your fruit (being careful not the puncture the bag of spices).

Simmer for another 2 hours.

Let cool completely. Take out your spices and strain the cider through a cheesecloth. Squeeze all the juices out of the cheesecloth, and discard the pulp. You may have to do this in batches. (Cheers Dad for helping me out here, pouring 2 litres of cider and taking photos at the same time is close to impossible)

You should be left with a slightly cloudy pulp-free liquid. You can serve it hot, with a slice of fresh orange or star anise, or it can be equally nice to consume chilled.

Carving Pumpkins 101
Now you can get all professional and use a keyhole saw, miniature saws, scrapers and needle tools. But all I had (and wanted to invest in) were knives and a trusty soup spoon... AND IT WORKED. So it's going to be fine guys, no need to buy that pumpkin kit. Unless you want to make this. Or this. But we're not there yet, baby steps okay.  

1. Cut a hole in the top of your pumpkin - I used a steak knife for this, the jagged teeth help a lot, trust me.

2. Scoop out the flesh, pulp and seeds. You should be left with a clean pumpkin such as this one. 

3. Get creative with your designs. Mark them out first with a market or pen, carve them in, and get rid of any still visible pen marks with a little bit of nail polish remover and a cotton ball.

4. Place a little tea light candle or a larger one (make sure it has a tall glass around it) to light up your pumpkin. You can also use electric lights, in which case, make sure you cut a hole in the bottom of your pumpkin to hide and pass the cord through.

Happy Halloween everyone ! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Stuff I've Been Diggin' Recently #3

Having entered Spring in the Southern Hemisphere, therefore sadly instigating a funeral for sweaters and thick woolly bed socks, I've turned my attention to a few things that've gotten me in the mood for the warmer months. And for the not-so-humble smoothie lover, scroll down to the bottom for some handy secrets to use in your next morning smoothie...

High-waisted Denim Shorts

If you get the right cut, these can be flattering for a lot of people. The thing to look for is a slight flare at the bottom of the shorts, that'll ensure a nice fit around the upper thighs, as I've found (from personal experience) some shorts can be slightly too tight in that area and cinch in too much – which let's be honest, reminds me of this, and I wouldn't say I find it too flattering. 

I got these subtly distressed ones from Zara, which sit well on the waist and are the kind of shorts you don't have to constantly tug at and pull down during the day (oh the woes of short shorts).  

Stocking Up for the Bikini Season 

I'm pretty picky when it comes to bikinis. They have to be functional, practical (if I dive into the water, it would be preferable to emerge still fully covered by my bathing suit, thank you), but also original. And don't even get me started on the perfect bottoms, I'm not even going to pretend that I don't actively search for the most minimal coverage – never have the words "Brazillian" and "Cheeky" been so wonderful to my ear. 

The bikini pictured above wasn't even originally my first choice, but my friend grabbed it off the shelves and shoved it in my face, and I couldn't refuse that much enthusiasm you know ?! I was pretty skeptical to say the least, seeing as, being bigger busted, a tube shape isn't my go-to style in terms of adequate support and cut. But there were a couple of clever little features that made this work. To start, the deep narrow V in the front is very flattering (avoids dreaded mono-boob syndrome) and the removable bra-like straps make this bikini both ideal for swimming and tanning. Not to mention turquoise arguably flatters every skin tone, I can't imagine it looking bad on anyone really. 

Another love for the Spring and Summer months, and many more to come after that, are Tigerlily's bikini sets and monos (below). I bought this one last Summer, and you can bet I'll probably splurge on another sooner than I'll admit – whether or not I have the funds is a fight between my bank account and I. I'm going to go ahead and make a prediction that I will mostly likely be in debt by the end of the Summer. 

Smoothie Tips & Recipe

Some of you are most likely already aware of the awesomeness that happens when you place frozen bananas in your smoothie (hello creamy dreamy goodness). But, for those who aren't a fan of banana, the same thing happens when you make almond milk (or soy) ice cubes. All you need to do is grab yourself an ice cube tray and pour in your almond or soy milk, leave it overnight or for a few hours. When you blend it all up, you'll get the effect of putting in full cream milk – without the fat. The thing a lot of people forget is that, while smoothies can have individual healthy ingredients, together they can be quite a calorie hit (and easily make a meal, rather than an accompaniment). Without thinking about it, you could load it up with a lot more sugar (from the fruit) and fats that you actually need. So go easy on the fruit, and balance it out with some vegetables (kale, baby spinach, celery, cucumber or carrot, for example). Grapefruit is also a good addition, it's high in vitamin C and is great for detox. Instead of using milk, why not probiotic yoghurt or greek yoghurt? You can also use ingredients like oats, flaxseed meal or psyllium husk to add extra fibre and thicken up your smoothie. 

Banana Berry Smoothie

For 2 serves, you'll need: 
-2 small frozen bananas
-1 handful of almond milk ice cubes 
-1 cup of almond milk 
-1 handful of berries of your choice (I used strawberries and blueberries)
-1-2 tablespoons of Greek yoghurt 
-1 tablespoon of rolled oats 

Blend for 1-2 minutes or until completely smooth (upcycled jars, retro paper straws and shameless instagramming through a vsco filter is optional).

xx Margot Ana 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Last Night's Defs-not-a-mistake Calorie Fest

A couple friends of mine had the brilliant idea of making Friday night dinner/time to show everyone how cool you can really be in the kitchen/catch ups, a reoccurring thing. In general we'll rotate who's house we'll have it at, and this week I got to pretend I was Nigella Lawson and get kooky cooky in the kitchen (DOES THIS COUNT AS A PUN??).

So we ate some things that I lovingly prepared with my own hands (tears and sweat included)*. I don't know if you remember the little dinner party I cooked for in Amsterdam, back in February, but I tried one of the recipes from that again. I made the Goats Cheese and Asparagus Galette, and for dessert, I made my own ice cream, flavoured with Italian ground coffee beans.

*Don't worry it's all OH&S approved

There was some troubleshooting and things I altered this time around for the galette. The last time I found the goats cheese I had used was slightly too strong and overpowered the dish, and I had also used three cheeses for the mixture, with mozzarella and parmesan added to the goats cheese. So this time around, I made sure to buy a softer, more mild goats cheese (a soft French chèvre) and decided to do a 2:1 ratio of chèvre to fetta instead.

As for the dough, I used wholemeal flour instead of white, which I feel resulted in just a little more crunch to the pastry. A mistake I also made last time, was taking out the galette slightly too early, it was cooked through just not as crunchy and flakey as I would have liked it. Often with an egg wash, you can feel as if the pastry is done before it actually is, so don't be afraid to really wait for that golden
brown colour.

And the ice cream... Well I might just keep that a secret for now and make a seperate post on it down the line. In a few words though: easy, variable and incredibly creamy and delicious. (No ice cream maker needed !)

New post soon,

Margot Ana xx

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Introducing: The Red Smoothie

So I'm back in Sydney, and back in my own home, which means back to the daily grind but also to routines and old favourites. Now, having my blender back at my full disposition, I thought it only appropriate to share a recipe that I created and make on the reg (you can be sure this has been tried and tested a few times).

I'm assuming that most of you have heard of the infamous green smoothie - some of you may love and support the idea and some of you may shudder at the thought of drinking liquid spinach and fruits (personally, I've been caught out making my own green smoothies but you know, to each their own). Well if you fall into the B category and like smoothies, fear not. Here is another healthy (vegetable free) alternative with its own set of mega-nutritious benefits (your foodie/health-freak/hipster friends will be proud).

Note: Recipe can be easily modified to be vegan.

The Recipe:
-1 handful of frozen mixed berries (makes your smoothie nice and cold without watering it down with ice cubes) - the ones I used were organic
of a pink grapefruit (a quarter is pictured, but I do recommend halving that quantity)
-2 tablespoons of dried goji berries 
-1 tablespoon of oats 
-1 tablespoon of honey (or more to taste) - to make vegan, you can replace this with agave nectar
-1 cup and a half of almond milk 

The Health Benefits Low-down:
Ok so let's start with the berries. I used a mix of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Blueberries are such an amazing little fruit, they are rich in the kind of antioxidants that will help you with arthritis, age-related memory loss and various eyesight problems, including cataracts. Raspberries on the other hand contain more fibre and help lower cholesterol and even manage type 2 diabetes. They also have antioxidants such as vitamin C and anthocyanins (these are what give the berries their vibrant pigment) that can aid you in maintaining healthy skin and hair. Strawberries however can do all of the above as well as being a good source of folate and B vitamin (which reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease for example) - so maybe think twice before passing by these babies in the fruit and vegetable section at your supermarket, because they are a lot more powerful than they appear ! 

The pink grapefruit has slightly less mind-blowing health benefits like its berry buddies, but is a hefty source of vitamin C and is low GI as well as low in calories (approximately 40 calories in a medium grapefruit) - and it adds a nice tart citrus flavour to the smoothie. 

The goji berry is kind of like the wise elder in the bunch, used for thousands of years not just in a culinary sense but in medicine too. Branded a superfruit, many have claimed this berry to be rejuvenating, which is probably due to its powerful antioxidant properties and polysaccharides, which together help boost the immune system. This superfruit is also packed with vitamin C and fibre and high in iron, calcium and zinc. 

And finally, the delicious almond milk - which is naturally a little sweeter than other milk alternatives (great for smoothies !). I just buy plain almond milk (no vanilla flavour or anything), which happens to have less calories than light milk by about a third. Not only a source of calcium (and almost 99% percent fat free) it is also naturally free from lactose, gluten and cholesterol.

Now let's get into the smoothie:

First prepare your grapefruit by cutting it into an eighth and slicing away the skin - I just glide my knife right between the skin and the flesh of the grapefruit. Then cut it into smaller chunks so it blends slightly easier.

Next, load up your ingredients into the blender. There isn't really a particular order that you have to do this in, but I like putting my frozen fruit on the bottom so the blade blends through it nicely and putting my liquids in last. 

Blend for about 2 minutes (less if you have a smoothie setting, which I do, and/or a powerful professional tier blender) or until all your ingredients have been blended right through. Do not strain (you'll lose all those nutrients found in the seeds and micro bits of fruit left behind).

The recipe makes enough to fill about 2 smaller glasses or one big glass.

Enjoy and be sure to follow my blog or like my facebook page to be certain not to miss a post. 

xx Margot Ana

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Amsterdaminator *

*Margot Ana, coming up with cheesy post titles since '11

If you guys remember, I was in Amsterdam for the first time a few months back, I even wrote a blog post while I was there. This month I was back, for some June sunshine and some fast-paced daily cycling – done to a peppy upbeat playlist of course.

I met up with my dad while I was there, and my cousin Elise (you may remember her from such international trips as Marrakech and Florence) was celebrating a milestone birthday, so we invited her up to Amsterdam to celebrate. We rented in a really cool apartment right next to Amsterdam's Oosterpark via AirBnB and rented bikes in order to get the full DUTCH EXPERIENCE. With some super busy days lined up, we'd come home absolutely exhausted, so thankfully there was a hip beer garden around the corner which we retreated to for some unwinding with a fresh Dutch beer.

Top 3 highlights of our trip and recommendations:
- Cheese tasting by one of Amsterdam's most prestigious cheese companies (click here to learn more.)
- Mata Hari, a really cool bar in Amsterdam's red light district
- Vondelpark, Amsterdam's largest recreational park, amazing place to relax, play music, read a book or even do your weekly injection of fitness.

And then of course you have the Rijks Museum, the Anne Frank House and other usual museums and attractions.

(You can even do the UNSPEAKABLE and go to one of Amsterdam's many Coffeeshops...)

Till next time,
xx Margot Ana