Fill your shopping basket with these tasty treats

With the change of not only seasons, but months too, comes a whole new variety of tasty fruit and vegetables we really need to be eating. You see, Happies, if you were yet to understand, I am a huge advocate of seasonal eating, and find that knowing which fruits and vegetables are actually in season every month, makes grocery shopping about 10,000 times simpler. And I like simple very much.

So, as April quickly approaches, now would be the time to tell you what to keep your eyes out for at the market, or your local vege man, or Harris Farm. And hopefully not Coles or Woolies, if it can be avoided.

1. Avocados (of the Shepard variety) – Yessss! These suckers are coming back and my lettuce cup sandwiches and I are stoked.

2. Fennel – Pork’s best made fennel is officially in season in April, so definitely look at some new ways to introduce this aniseedy flavour into your cooking.

3. Watercress – one green definitely worth digging into is old-mate cress, whose ability to fight free radicals rivals that of Superman. Or Blueberries even. Stick him in a salad or on some bread with curried egg and poached chicken.

4. Pomegranate – With the amazing ability to morph any salad into a taste sensation, and the odd capability of turning your teeth red when you eat too many of them, the pomegranate is another wonder ingredient worth getting your hands on. I like to eat them plain, or in salads, but they also go great guns with chicken and even duck. Yum!

5. Baby Eggplant – I love eggplant so much, I used it as my main ingredient when trying out for Masterchef last year. True story. I proudly made it through to the top 100, and after watching the show, I’m thrilled I didn’t get any further as my ass would have been kicked from here to food heaven. And back again. I’d vote for you to try this moussaka recipe if you’re looking for something new to do with these aubergine-coloured delights.

Other fruit and vege worth keeping your eyes out for next month include: Custard Apples, Mushrooms, Sweet Corn, Sweet Potato, Brussels Sprouts, Asian Greens, Pears, Apples, Kiwifruit, Lemons and for something a little less ordinary, Mangosteens.

Which, if you’re curious, look like this when they’re peeled…

That’s it from the markets (or whatever they say in those bloody Woolies ads)…

Tell me Happies…

What are some ways to use these fruit and vege?

Do you eat seasonally?

Do you think we need more education and advice on what’s in season each month?

I’m sorry, but I decline…

The art of refusal is something I’m only just learning to master, Happies. For years I was an over-committer, completely unable to say no to anything or anyone due to a ridiculous need to please people and a lingering sense of fear of pissing people off.

It’s ridiculous when you think about it, but a common mistake made by us ‘people pleasers’ of the world and one I totally understand. Being able to say no is a craft, and if there was a gene in charge of granting people the ability to simply refuse, I missed out on it completely. Utterly. Superbly.

In the past, I said yes to everything. Cleaning the car? Of course. Washing the dog? Sign me up. I once said yes to a joining a friend in a lecture. For a subject I wasn’t even studying. I know, I’m nuts!


But over time, due to a severe lack of ‘me’ time and that sweet little gem in life known as maturity, I started toying with this foreign concept of saying ‘I’m sorry, but I decline’.

My main concern came with disappointing the asker, I was worried that by me saying NO, they’d take it personally and I’d upset them, or worse yet, my refusal would send them into a flurry of anger and the friendship would be over. Complicating things much?

But over time, the more I learned to diplomatically say no, the more I realised that people were totally accepting of my decision, and responded by swiftly moving onto some other poor sucker in the hope of them not being so comfortable with that no word. Did the friendship end? No way. Did I upset anyone? Absolutely not. Was I a million times happier and enjoying my newfound free time? Too right, buster.

I recently read an article by Christine Hohlbaum, the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, about how powerful saying no actually is. It’s all in the delivery, Hohlbaum explains, and quite frankly, I couldn’t agree more.

Here are her tips for letting people down gently…

1. Acknowledge. If someone asks you to do something, it is because they have faith you can do it or they like you enough to want to spend their time with you. If spearheading a new project or attending that party makes your heart sink instead of sing, acknowledge the person’s thoughtfulness for having considered you.

2. Express gratitude and interest. Thank the person for their invitation, then show interest in their efforts.

3. Decline. Once you have acknowledged the person’s request and expressed your gratitude for their consideration, politely decline with a few simple words. If “no” itself is too hard, you can say you have an overlapping commitment.

In other words, Happies, do whatever it takes to get out of said commitment, even if it means lying. Hilarious! No, no, in all seriousness I think the delivery of the N.O. does impact the outcome, and as long as you treat the asker with respect and reply diplomatically, you really can’t go wrong.

Plus, let’s face it, there are plenty of other people that will happily accept, so you may as well step aside and let them enjoy the experience, while saying yes to yourself at the same time. Who could ever say no to that?

Tell me Happies…

Do you suffer from YES syndrome, too?

How do you combat it?

Sunday Best: Curried Egg and Chicken Sandwich

It appears the month of March has picked me up and swallowed me whole, Happies. It happens I guess, those blink-and-you-miss-it moments in time where you have an agenda and the world laughs at you and shows you the door to a time warp where nothing seems to get done. And by nothing, I mean blog posts here on The Happiness Cocktail.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is sorry for being such a slacker this month, my socks are officially being pulled up as we speak, but as a friend of mine kindly remarks, a neglected blog means its owner actually has a life – so I’m sticking with that excuse and running with it. Hooray!

In the spirit of being a little too busy than I’d like to admit this month, Sunday Best has taken a back seat to friend’s weddings, hens days and yes, even health retreats. But yesterday Alex and I finally started to settle back into ‘real life’ and celebrated with this remake of a retro WINNER!

Curried egg is, for the most part, a highly underrated gem. Normally reserved for grandma’s tea dates or the kid at school with stinky breath, this simple take on our old-mate, Egg, transforms a somewhat plain ingredient into a hero. Yes, a hero.

So here’s what we created – sprouted bread sandwiches with curried egg, poached chicken, Spanish onion and watercress (an ingredient so super-charged, your body will love you just for looking at it).

Here it is…

The joy of this dish is actually hard to put in words, Happies. It’s so incredibly simple that it makes Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals look like something created by Heston Blumenthal, but the taste is so delicious, stopping at one would be an impossibility. For me, anyway.

So here’s what you need to do…

Start by poaching some free range chicken in a fry pan. Just fill the pan up with enough water to cover the chicken. Bring it to the boil and let it simmer until completely cooked through. Once done, leave the chicken to rest.

While the chicken is on, boil a few eggs until almost hard. I don’t like rock hard boiled eggs, but if you do, keep them in the boiling water for a few minutes more. Remove from water when ready and peel.

Now that your eggs are peeled, throw them in a bowl with some whole-egg mayonnaise, sea salt, cracked pepper and curry powder. Mix with a fork to break down the egg and make sure every last bit is coated in creamy curry goodness.

Moving onto the assembly stage of this invention, Happies, all you need to do is toast your favourite seedy, grainy bread. The more seeds and grains you see, the better. Leave the white stuff for someone else. Once toasted, top with a generous scoop of curried egg, some finely sliced poached chicken, a few slithers of Spanish onion and a generous serving of watercress. Please wash the cress, as I’ve been known to find a less-than-delicious slug or two on the leaves and it’s not pretty. Trust me.

Top the sanga off with some more cracked pepper and a touch of sea salt to taste. Now all you need to do is snack away. Enjoy!

Tell me Happies…

What do you think of curried egg?

Are you a fan?

Do you want to try this sandwich? May I suggest you do? It’s insanely tasty.

Signs of Happiness: Simple Reminders

Sometimes the simplest of messages are the best way to get across to people. Like this, for example, that was sent to me by my amazingly inspirational friend at work who splits her time between The Knot, and The Edit. She likes things starting the ‘The’.

But not as much as I like her constant reminders and affirmations to stay on the awesome side of oneself. Here’s the latest Happies…

With all the madness in the world right now, the least we can do is take a second out of our busy lives to appreciate the simple things and recognise how lucky we are. The bottom line – be nice to those around you because you never know when they may not be there anymore.

Stay Happy,

Yx

Sunday Best: Healthy Eggplant Moussaka

The eggplant – a vegetable as versatile and tasty as, say, the potato but better for you and in my opinion, even more delicious. Especially when bubbling away in my oven as we speak after being morphed into a moussaka. YUM!

Now, I’ve never really cooked moussaka before, but after recently receiving the Gwinganna…From the Garden to Gourmet cookbook (which you MUST to get your hands on) it occurred to me that this needs to change. Immediately.

So it has, with me now readying myself for a dinner fit for Donna Hay. Or Jamie Oliver. Or even Carlo Petrini, the dude who founded the Slow Food Movement, because Happies, eggplants are currently in season, so now is the perfect time for this classic dish.

Due to me being impatient and having nothing to show you visually, here’s a picture google prepared earlier, just so you get the gist…

And the close-up…

And here’s what you need to do to serve 5 very happy people…

Soak 1 cup of green lentils for about 2-3 hours. While you’re doing that, prepare the vegetables by cutting 1 large eggplant and 1.5 large sweet potatoes into 1cm thick slices.

Now, sprinkle the eggplant with salt and leave it to sweat for 20-30 minutes. Grab 2 medium zucchinis while you wait and cut them thinly, too. Rinse and dry the eggplant and place all three vegetables into the oven to pre-bake and soften. While you’re there, chuck 500g of ripe tomatoes, 1 medium onion and 1-2 cloves of garlic into the tray for your tomato sauce.

Fast-forward 2-3 hours and it’s time to get everything assembled. So, rinse and boil your green lentils and rinse and boil 1 cup of quinoa. While that’s happening, pop on your tomato sauce by grabbing those pre-roasted tomatoes, onion and garlic and chucking them into a pot. Add sea salt, pepper, oregano and basil to taste, plus 1-2 bay leaves and a sprig of rosemary for added zing, before filling up sauce with 1/2 cup of water. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, blend in a food processor and you’re good to go.

Now, all you have to do is throw everything together. So grab a large baking tray and layer your ingredients, starting with the sweet potato and finishing with a layer of eggplant (i.e. sweet potato, quinoa, lentils, tomato, zucchini, eggplant and so on and so on…). To serve, add some wilted English Spinach to the bottom of the plate, before laying down your moussaka, pouring over some more tomato sauce and drizzling some pesto over the top. Mmmm, tasty!

Well Happies, I’m off to pull my moussaka out of the oven, but in the meantime tell me…

Have you seen the Gwinganna cookbook?

Have you made moussaka?

Do you want to?