Monday, January 28, 2013

Rainy day activities

So it's raining today. Has been for the last three days. At least we don't have the gale force winds of the other night. Truly, I thought we'd lose the tin on the roof that night, nailed on as it is.

Right now the rain is an intermittent sprinkle. Enough to make you think you should go out and do something productive but then rethink cos you'll get too wet.

I'm happy sitting on the front verandah, doing my cross-stitch and watching lucky Phil fertilize the hedge plants.

Grateful that I'm high and dry, I wish all the flood affected parts of Queensland a safe evening.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Agileh = happy man

Friday, January 25, 2013

The road to a friend's house....

Our neighbour friends have moved out to their block of land an hour out of town and left us all alone.

Very sad we are because not only were they great neighbours, but they are great friends and truthfully, we don't have that many friends in this place.

We see them a couple of times a month now, when they drop around to their house to check that their son (who now lives there) hasn't burnt the place down and to mow the lawn.  Or when we get an afternoon free and we are able to take a drive out.

We do miss their company.  Genuine people with giving hearts.  Gems.  Rare to find these days.

I found this cross-stitch in one of my books and thought it would be a perfect gift for them....


It now has a new home on a wall in their house.

Fills my heart with joy that does. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wk 3: Cheesy Spring Onion Fritters and Lasagne

Week 3 already of my Cookbook Cookoff Challenge and I'm on fire!  Am totally enjoying the different meals I've already cooked from my cookbook collection and looking forward to the next.  Most new meals are happening on the weekend given that on a Saturday and Sunday I have not only the time, but also the inclination.

This week has seen the addition of another Donna Hay recipe - this one from her magazine - and a recipe-book version of Lasagne, rather than the made-up-on-the-go version that I usually go for!

Donna Hay's Cheesy Spring Onion Fritters were first up.  Nice and light and easy, I only needed to buy buttermilk - not something I usually cook with.  Everything else was already in the fridge.  I had to fudge a little since I don't like ricotta cheese (it's the smell....) so replaced it with cheddar.  Would no doubt have tasted much better with the ricotta but still tasted pretty damn fine without!

These little gems were incredibly light and fluffy, and very more-ish.  I served them with another summery-greekish salad (seems to be my signature these days!) and some homemade tomato relish.  I must say, I'm not sure if it was the Fritters or the tomato relish or a combination of them both, but this was just plain delicious!  Both Lucky Phil and I went back for seconds and  also polished off the few I had reserved for lunch the next day!!  I'll certainly now be rethinking the gifting of the final few bottles of tomato relish in the cupboard too....!

Second challenge of the week - good old Lasagne   I made this one on Sunday night in preparation for someone's 41st birthday on Tuesday (not mine).  The request for this special meal was submitted last week and of course, being a birthday night, how can one refuse!?!  So I figured, to fulfil the Cookbook Cookoff Challenge, why not make it from a recipe book?  
The front of my book has gone all crackly - not sure why but I think it looks pretty.  Unique, anyway.
I followed Stephanie Alexander's recipe from her tome The Cooks Companion.  I've often referred to this book when I have a glut of one form of veg or another and need some inspiration for the using up of it.  Stephanie's lasagne recipe didn't disappoint.  I made it on Sunday night for eating on Tuesday night to give the flavours time to develop and meld (the whole world knows that leftover lasagne tastes better than first night!).

I had to do a bit of fudging on this one too - I didn't have any celery, or bacon, or white wine and instead did without the former and substituted with red wine for the latter (always plenty of that on hand!!!).  I seem to do a lot of fudging with my cooking, which hopefully isn't going against the grain of my Cookbook Cookoff goal.....but I figure that I'm making 'new' recipes rather than playing with different versions of my usual repertoire of six or so meals, so I'm safe.

Anyway, birthday boy Lucky Phil was very impressed with the Lasagne.  But then he always is.  I figured out from a very early point in our relationship that he is happy with cheese on toast, anything more and he is ecstatic!  We demolished half of it last night - with a light salad on the side.  I was originally planning veggies but a) it was too hot   b) I didn't have time and c) I no longer had it in me to cook them by the time we were ready to eat.  Good thing the salad won out - there is no way I could have eaten my small share of the mammoth piece of lasagne I heated up had I done veggies!

Leftovers again tonight....looking forward to it.

The verdict on these two?
Will certainly make again.  There were other varieties of fritters to try - tuna and corn, sweet potato and pea, broccoli and bacon - will try to make sure I have all of the ingredients next time.  And as for the lasagne, Stephanie's recipe called for the addition of nutmeg to the mince mixture which I think made it sweeter.  Very nice indeed - and will be doing that one again too.

Cheesy Spring Onion Fritters (Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 65, Oct-Nov 2012, p70)
Lasagne (Stephanie Alexander, The Cook's Companion, 2004, p691)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wk 2: Mediterranean Open Grill and Bobotie Loaf

So here we go, full swing ahead, into week 2 of my 2013 Cookbook Cookoff Challenge where I attempt to cook two meals a week from cookbooks that have been gathering dust on my shelf despite the occasional pull-down-dust-off that comes from engaging in a little food-porn.

This week, only one meal from the cookbook (really?!? breaking the rules on week 2??!!) however the Mediterranean Open Grill was inspired by our visit to our friend's cafe so chances are pretty high it did come from a recipe book, at one time.....and who knows, I may find it in one of my books up there on the it counts!!

Lucky Phil's Open Grill - lots of olives...both on the grill and on the salad....
I made this one on Sunday night after we had driven to Brisbane to visit Mr Matt and partake of his fine food and good coffee in the gorgeous surroundings that are his inner-north cafe-gift shop.  Lucky Phil and I had an open grill each for lunch (with Greek salad on the side) and could have eaten it all over again except that would have made us pigs.  So instead, I waited until we got home and I made my own version.  Basil pesto, spinach leaves, red onion, fetta, sundried tomatoes, cheese.  All on a turkish roll cut in half then topped with a mozzarella-ey cheese mix and toasted until just right.  Heaven on a bread roll.  Finished with a thrown together Greek-ish salad, I reckon my version was better than that of the cafe.  Yes, Mr Matt, that's right.  Better LOL
And mine....with a helping of avocado and delicious fetta....
The Bobotie Loaf however was a genuine, ridgey-dige recipe from The World of Spice by Michael Bateman.  I'm not sure how I came to have this book in my possession but it has the most amazing recipes (At this stage, to read.  Soon I can say, to eat) and pictures.  This one jumped out at me because I was craving meat but not enough to cook a steak.  It was super easy to make and the smells as it cooked were amazing.

It had a delicious sweet taste - I think from the apricot jam and raisins (I used sultanas - didn't have raisins).  It also had a touch of the familiar in the use of curry powder.  One of my big food memories as a child is dad's every-veggie-left-in-the-fridge-cooked-with-mince-flavoured-with-curry dish.  This one brought all those good memories right on back with every bite.  Feel good stuff that.

Like a lasagne though, first night everything fell apart when served up.  Second night though, perfecto.  Cut perfectly so it served so nicely, plus having had a day and night to mellow the flavours together, tasted even better than the first.  The recipe made lots too.  Almost too much for two people (eaten over three nights - nearly one night too many for any leftover no matter how tasty), it would certainly feed four or six adults in a hit.

The verdict?
Bobotie Loaf = very yum though maybe not to everyone's tastes.  Make the day before to let the flavours gel and the loaf to hold it's shape when cut.
Mediterranean Open Grill = great, quick, healthy meal for nights when I don't know what to cook and am feeling quite lazy. 
Bobotie Loaf (Michael Bateman, The World of Spice, 2003, p93)

Hmmmmm, should I be posting the recipes as well?  Not too sure, given the copyright laws of the world.  I mean, I paid good money for these cook books so that the authors could be reimbursed for their knowledge and skill....I've read that by re-writing the recipe in my own words and attributing credit I shouldn't be breaking copyright law but I don't know....

One thing I do know is that I will be seriously peeved if ever the cookbook goes a-missing and here I've gone and posted about how great the recipe was and I won't be able to make it again.....thoughts????

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wk 1: Chilli-caramelised Pork on Cucumber Salad with Caramelised Pineapple Tarts

And so it begins, my 2013 Cookbook Cookoff Challenge.  Has a nice ring to it that, doesn't it?! LOL  My attempt to cook minimum two meals per week from my collection of cookbooks that have yet to be used for the purpose they were intended (cooking, that is.  Not just looking and drooling).

So first off the rank, from Donna Hay's Instant Entertaining which I was given as a farewell gift from my admin job with Qld Health many moons ago (and from which I was yet to cook anything), Chilli-Caramelised Pork on Cucumber Salad followed by a dessert of Caramelised Pineapple Tarts.  Part of Donna's 'Saturday Night' menu selection (note to self, page 46), it even had a starter and a side to accompany these but given that this is week one of my challenge, I didn't want to go too hard too early!

I wasn't too sure on the main dish since I'm really only a beef-or-chicken girl.  Mum's fault that one.  She doesn't like pork, lamb or too much fish so I was raised on a diet of beef or chicken.  And veg.  It's been a challenge for Lucky Phil to sway my tastes and try new things, that's for sure!

And to add to the occasion, first dish of the challenge and all, my dearest darling husband invited his brother and partner over for the that very night.  Not that I minded, they are great people and I love having them over and cooking for them anytime but this was a first-time recipe, anything could go wrong!!!

But it all went smoothly in the end.  Dan and Jodie were held up by about 2 and half hours but since I'd already done the prep-work I wasn't stressed and instead poured another beverage and danced around the kitchen until they arrived.  Fun!!!

My beverage of choice for the evening - vodka, sugarfree leomande and a titch (just a titch) of homemade lemon cordial.  Refreshing!
It was delicious!  Light and flavoursome, I could have put the recipe's amount of chilli in because I skimped a little and it didn't have enough kick - I hesitate when it's the first time cooking - too much and it's too much.  But it was for the best that I did hold back on the chilli - Dan and Jodie aren't chilli-spicy-hardened like Lucky Phil and I and they found it almost too much.  Note to self on that one.

And dessert, Caramelised Pineapple Tarts, were so simple and yet tasted so amazingly delicious I am totally doing them again!  I think they would also be superb with apples or apricots and maybe drizzled with some caramel sauce to boot....mmmmmm!  Things to do different next the label on the tin of pineapples on the supermarket shelf before you get home - slices you want, not pieces!

The verdict?
Definitely winners - both.  And definitely cooking these again.

Chilli-Caramelised Pork on Cucumber Salad (Donna Hay, Instant Entertaining, 2006, page 46)
Caramelised Pineapple Tarts (Donna Hay, Instant Entertaining, 2006, page 46)

Monday, January 14, 2013

2013 - year of the recipe book cookoff

So I might be a little late with developing some form of goal or plan for the year....and certainly a little late with the sharing of said goals and plans.   But I subscribe to the 'better late than never' philosophy and believe that truly, any day is as good as another to start something, really!

Aside from the usual eat better, exercise more, drink less wine, keep off the sugar gig that I seem to espouse at the start of each year and then eventually admit defeat by about, you know, 3rd March, this year I have a different aim.  And this year, I reckon I have pretty high chances of actually achieving it.  Hooray!

So to my point? My actual goal for 2013, year of change and getting my happy on? wellll,,,,,,,so glad you asked!

You see I have this bookshelf just off the kitchen.  It's been filling for years.  And years.  I'm sure there are books that really want to live on this shelf but unfortunately, they just haven't made the cut and live instead in the cardboard box on top of the cupboard in the spare room.  That the LOML doesn't know about.  

I know there are books that have been culled from both the shelf and the box, thrown into supermarket bags and taken to Lifeline to grace their shelves and hopefully find a new home on someone else's bookshelf.  But there are still a lot of books on my shelf.

Mostly books to do with food.

I won't part with the cake decorating ones.  Those ones are hard to come by.  Especially the vintage ones I inherited from my Aunt.

And I won't part with the recipe books I've currently got up there.  Those ones are the special ones.

I might get rid of a few from the spare room.  But not until later....

So what I've decided to do, to really justify the space my prides and joys are taking up on my shelf (and to keep the LOML, bless his heart, from threatening to take them to Lifeline himself in my stead) they need to be, you know, used.  Rather than just looked at after a few wines when I'm really hungry and in the mood for cooking (food tastes better after a few reds!) but then settle for cheese on toast when I realise I haven't the ingredients or the inclination!

And that's my 2013 goal.  

I shall cook from my cookbooks.  Twice weekly (minimum).  Something new each time.  

And then, to keep myself honest, and to remember what I have cooked and which book it came from, I shall blog about it.  With photos.  Un-photoshopped photos.  



Have I got it in me, to master this challenge of mine????

Watch this space......

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Long time, no blog....

Hiya world!

It's been so long since I was last in the blogosphere!  It feels like so much has changed!  Last I knew it was mid-October and my world was gearing up to be quite hectic....but nowhere did I imagine I would fall off the face of the inter-pla-net for near on 10 weeks!!!

So what have I been up to?  What has stopped me from my daily stalking and losing of hours via the internet???  Weeellllll, so glad you asked, let me give you an as-quick-as-I-can-in-one-longish-blog-post rundown....!

Around the end of October I'd finally wound down birth-day-week-fortnight celebrations in time for the startling realisation that my mum was also due for a birthday - hers of the significant milestone variety.  So I whipped up a cake and set to work decorating it.  Eventually, a week out from party-day, the grapevine alerted me that my aunt (cake-decorator extraordinaire whose cake decorating equipment I was gifted a couple of years back xxx) would be at the shindig.  EEEKKKK!  All of a sudden, designs and plans were reassessed in the cold hard light of a higher level of scrutiny and attention...I jest....but in truth, I did feel the pressure a little more.  I managed to complete mum's cake over the course of a week's worth of evening-after dinner sessions (I'm still working full-time in my admin job) and get it to my mum's house despite the rain on the day....and both mum and my aunt were suitably impressed with the results..!  Nice!

Around this time, I was also asked by my soon-to-be-bride sister and her husband if I would make their wedding cake.  Of course, the answer was always going to be YES but that didn't stop the stress levels climb to all sorts of new levels.  I mean, I've now done a fair few cakes - for fun and for celebrations - but nothing to this level.  After a flurry of text  and facebook messages (she lives two hours away), as well as a couple of face-to-face catchups in the middle, we came up with a design that both she and her fiance liked, and that I was confident I could pull off!  My biggest fear around this time was a request for a five tier masterpiece to rival the royal wedding!!!  So then I started....baking fruit cakes, making sugar roses, sourcing cake toppers and ribbon and the's a big job when the pressure is on!

I had learnt to make a flower spray two weeks before I had to do this - nothing like FREAKING ME OUT!!!
Around this time the weather was great.  Nice sunny days with not a hint of wet in the nightly forecast.  That was a big worry - that the rain would come and I would be in all sorts of bother.  Too damp/humid or too hot and the fondant icing melts...and given that my old queenslander house is not air-conditioned and has gaps and holes everywhere, a big concern.  But it held in the end and everything was made and assembled without a tear or a tantrum.  :)  I had a momentary panic on the afternoon before the wedding when came the realisation that the assembled cake (three tiers high) would not go into our car without the need to be tilted - not in this lifetime!!  Luckily mum was over viewing my creation (and giving much needed compliments) and volunteered the use of her little buzzbox (a Toyota Echo) to get it to the reception venue.  That there was only an inch to spare around the base board when the cake was in was by this time not an issue at all. LOL We delivered it safe and sound in the end and at the very moment when it was on the table in the reception room and I'd taken a photo as proof, I swear my blood pressure dropped considerably and I regained a load of much needed sanity!!

Around this time also, in fact the day before the big day, the LOML and I had signed up on a second casual store for Christmas.  To be opened in three days.  From scratch.  A big ask at any time of year but at Christmas time? Huge undertaking given that the madness of Christmas for giftware retailers begins back in September so that stock can be ordered and delivered in time for the start of the buying frenzy.  But we (the LOML) took it in our (his) stride.  Go hard or go home.  We have had two years of tough to get us to this position and we were not going to let an opportunity pass us by (this second store was in the 'premium' shopping centre in town - the BIG one).  So in two days we got it all set up - stocked, signed, staffed - all while I was still working full-time in my week-day admin job.  Insane now when I look back on it.
I couldn't have made it through December without these....and lots of Mega B vitamins!
And so we continued until Christmas day - the LOML working everyday in either store, me working during the week at my job and then working in the evenings at either store merchandising stock or serving or both, both of us working all weekend in both stores (paying weekend wages hurts small businesses)....and then we stopped for one day (Christmas day) where we did nothing (I did the washing and swept the floor), got sick (always going to happen given the hours we were putting in), and then started all over again on Boxing Day....madness.

And so that's it..Christmas is done and dusted, the New Year has been and gone, and before we know it, we'll be bemoaning how quickly 2013 has disappeared and wondering what 2014 will bring!  I must say though, that I am looking forward to 2013.  2010 sucked, 2011 was worse but 2012 turned it around.  Life has been getting better each day so it figures that 2013 can't be anything but good.  Here's hoping.  

Happy New Year world!  Hope it promises to be grand for you also!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...