Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dinner? What's that?

Wearing oneself out completely does not lead to effective meal planning. That's my piece of wisdom for the day.

Oh, and my other thought for the day is this: low iron leads to embarrassingly feral mood. I don't think I realised how unpleasant I was being and feeling until the iron supplements I started taking mid last week began to kick in. My apologies to anyone who was inadvertently on the receiving end!
Anyway, we have been eating the past couple of nights, just fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-dig-something-out-of-the-freezer-or-husband-stop-off-at-the-shops-on-the-way-home-from-work kind of meals. Not ideal but when your brain and body are as exhausted as mine have been after the last weekend, it's the best I can hope for! It doesn't bode well for the post-birth-breastfeeding-sleep-deprivation zone, but we'll think about that later...

This weeks' menu:
Monday: Pasta Bake
Tuesday: Beef Bourguignon (from freezer)
Wednesday: Fennel Soup (delicious Aug 10, p. 51)
Thursday: Polenta crusted chicken (FODMAP friendly, still working out the finer details!)
Friday: Homemade fish & chips
Saturday: Gary's Ribs (T cooking, recipe here)
Sunday: Cheese on toast (out for lunch)

P.S. If you're wondering how last week went, I can't remember. Brain got fried over weekend.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


This past week has been crazy busy for me, resulting in the contemplation of a second afternoon nap for the day given that I won't get to bed tonight until after the MasterChef final is all finished! The highlight of the week though was definitely a trip to the Melbourne Craft and Quilt Fair on Friday. While I was completely exhausted by the time I hit the wall at 2pm (ahem), it was a fantastic day because it was a) CHILD FREE, b) good company, and c) some new (to me) discoveries that I'm particularly excited about!
We started the day by attending a hands on workshop making Lucky Owls. It was immensely satisfying completing a project in 30 minutes, and the end result is lovely! The session was run by Be Be Bold, a seller of Japanese Fabrics and other particularly nice things. I was very restrained at their stand and only bought a bag kit (the bundle with the green leaves on top), and some lovely buttons that will be used to finish a cardi for the little one that I outsourced to my mother-in-law*. Sadly (for me) the shop is based in Lismore, northern NSW (though only about 3 hours drive from my parents' place...Mum? It's OK, I'm kidding!) but they do mail order so all is not lost (though it could be dangerous for our bank balance). Sigh.

I also picked up a couple of crochet scarf patterns from Sackville & Lane, a crafty shop in country Victoria which had some really impressive items on display at their stand. One pattern uses Perle 8 cotton and a 1.5mm hook, and the other a single ply wool thread usually used for crewel embroidery and a 2.5mm hook. Possibly an indicator of my questionable sanity, but hopefully fun!

There were so many stalls at the show that I walked past many without stopping, mostly because many stalls looked just the same as one a couple of stalls back. I think that the stalls that stopped me were less cluttered or fussy in their displays, used different colours to many of the other stalls, and had really fabulous samples of finished products. I also went to the show knowing I didn't want to buy much fabric, but I also wanted to be able to buy things that really stood out. Which I did. Except for the doll kit at AK Traditions. I spent about 15 minutes at their stall gazing at their wares, eventually realising that if I spent the money and time making one for my daughter, she'd never be allowed to have it just in case she ruined it. Defeats the purpose, sadly. But, my goodness, they were lovely!

Hopefully I get a chance over the next few months to have a good play with the things I picked up this year, so that I can justify another fun-filled adventure next year!

*I know my limitations: if I'd decided to knit it myself, she may have been able to wear it next winter, but she needed it now!! It's rather nice, and I'll show you once the buttons are attached!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A chocolate croissant pudding and a meal plan

Last week, we did some experimenting with the idea of a chocolaty, croissanty, custardy pudding. And we came up with this.
Sliced croissants sprinkled with Grand Marnier and smothered in a rich chocolate custard. Made by my husband, who I think is particularly tolerant of me making statements like "You could try this...", and "What about this..." halfway through making it! So that you can enjoy it yourself, here's the recipe.

Chocolate Croissant Pudding
(Serves 4-6)

3-4 croissants, sliced into 1cm slices
1-2 tbsp Grand Marnier or other liqueur of your choice
200g dark chocolate
500ml milk
3 eggs, whisked
1 tsp vanilla

Lightly grease a baking dish that will fit your croissant slices nicely. Layer the croissants on a slight angle in the dish, and sprinkle with Grand Marnier.

Melt the chocolate (we use the microwave), and add the milk bit by bit, very gradually to start with, until you have some serious chocolate milk. Mix in the eggs and vanilla, and pour over croissants ensuring that there's no chocolate-free bits of croissant sticking up. Leave to stand for 15 minutes, then bake in a moderate (180ºC) oven for 40-45 minutes. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving, and enjoy!

Now onto other matters. The meal plan for last week again had a serious success (all because of Stephanie Alexander), and a hiccup, because I had a stubborn moment and refused to spend my 'me time' trekking to the fish shop and chose to craft instead (hello fish & chip shop).

This coming week presents a few challenges, namely a couple of single parenting days, a dessert that meets the requirements of the low FODMAP diet (fructose & lactose malabsorption friendly), and a couple of busy days for me which will probably mean T cooking! I just hope he's happy to cook the things I've planned...
Monday: Tomato pasta
Tuesday: Chocolate & almond cake with raspberries and soy ice cream* (The Cook's Companion, p. 227)
Wednesday: Tuna mornay (my version)
Thursday: Sweet potato and broccolini galette (MasterChef #3, p. 40)
Friday: Beef curry (from freezer)
Saturday: Sausages with roast veges & mash
Sunday: Chicken kebabs with vege cous cous (MasterChef #3, p. 70)

*If anyone has any wisdom to impart on the world of soy ice cream, it would be much appreciated! I know there's some decent stuff out there (I've enjoyed it myself!), but I can't remember which one it was. Help?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A cow

This afternoon I finished what appears to be my 5th finished project in the last 3 weeks. Something quite miraculous must be going on in this crafty space at the moment!
This little cow has been on the WIP list since January. My trusty iPhone camera seems unable to capture the teeny weeny stitches, but it's petit point over one strand of evenweave, and the whole piece is less than 7cm square. I think it was put aside originally because I needed to do something that didn't require going cross-eyed! But it's done now, and I'm rather pleased with it. All I need to do now is find a suitably teeny weeny frame and it can be put in it's rightful spot in my cow-loving husband's study!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

my creative space

Another dish cloth. A fast and satisfying hook, adding another item to the (currently very small) dish cloth stash!
Pattern: Sylvan Star Washcloth from Lion Brand Yarn (free)
Yarn: Sugar & Spice worsted weight cotton in green
Hook: 5.5mm

Ravelled here.

Slightly disconcertingly I have a slightly sore wrist after hooking a couple of projects in the last few weeks. It may be completely unrelated, but I'm taking it as a suggestion to get on with some other things, like knitting, or embroidery, or, shock horror, using the sewing machine! I have several partly finished projects in each of those categories, so you never know, I might finish something else...maybe!

Visit My Creative Space here to see and be inspired by a huge range of creative happenings.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spanish Chicken Rice

This dish was originally inspired by a recipe that appeared in delicious a few months ago. The flavours are similar, but the approach is a little different. In this version, the rice is cooked in the pan with all of the bits, which means it soaks up lots of yumminess while it cooks. And that's a good thing! But lets be honest, this is just a really good excuse to use chorizo and smoked paprika again, two ingredients that I think are delicious!

While this picture looks like it's been lifted from a 70's cookbook, it's just a night-time iphone pic. I really need a proper camera...

Spanish Chicken Rice
(Serves 3ish - maybe a family of four if the smalls are still little)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 chicken breast, cut into 2cm pieces
1 chorizo, halved lengthways and sliced
1 onion, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup long grain rice (I used basmati this time)
2 cups chicken stock
400g tin tomatoes, diced

In a large frying pan with a lid, quickly brown chicken pieces in oil over high heat, remove from pan. Reduce heat slightly, and fry chorizo until browned and starting to go crispy, remove.

Fry onion over medium heat for 2 minutes or until translucent. Add capsicum, cook for 1 minute and add garlic and smoked paprika. Cook, stirring for 30 seconds, then add the rice. Cook until the rice starts to crackle gently, add chorizo, stock and tomatoes. Stir to combine and bring to the boil. Add chicken and simmer until rice is cooked (about 15 mins). Check seasoning and serve.

Monday, July 12, 2010

what's for dinner?

This past week has been another mix of cooking successes and discoveries that I hope I remember the next time the same scenarios present themselves. Case in point: when baking biscuits remember to press START when setting the timer. I somehow managed to catch these moments before they progressed from very well done to charcoal!
These pecan, oat and honey biscuits are normally very good, so I'll try them again before too long and if they work properly, I'll post the recipe.

The second lesson for the week was one that I seem to need to learn at least once a fortnight. Don't cook anything with more than two steps when my husband is coming home late! Freezer meals are good, as is basic pasta. Think very carefully about the sanity of anything else!!

The pumpkin and feta fritters were an easy peasy roaring success, and once I make them again, I'll let you know what I did. And even though there was a bit of musical meals and slight variations, there was no resorting to takeaway, which quite frankly, seems like a bit of a miracle.

This week, we visited the Collingwood Children's Farm Farmers Market, so the things we picked up there have shaped what we're eating. We've been going to the markets as often as possible this year, and it's great! Our regular stops include the potato lady, the mushroom man, the Mount Zero olive man and the gozleme stall (for a snack!). And I've even managed to say hello to Kate a couple of times! And there's ducks and chooks and lots of dogs for small people to get excited about! All good.

Monday: Fancy Pasta (goats cheese and sundried tomato ravioli from the farmers market!)
Tuesday: Spanish Chicken Rice (making it up)
Wednesday: Polenta with Tomato and Olive Sauce (Marie Claire Comfort, p. 137)
Thursday: Date Night!!
Friday: Beef Bourguignon (The Cook's Companion, p. 106) (with lots of leftovers for the freezer)
Saturday: Ginger & Shallot Steamed Fish (making it up)
Sunday: Vegetable & Barley Soup (from the freezer)

What are you eating this week?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Two more...

These hats are for Gina's two boys. I can't really claim the green one, as Mum knitted it. I did the other bits (the provisional cast on, grafting and seaming), but the bulk of the work really is the knitting. Still, two hats! They're the same style as the one I made for my daughter a couple of weeks ago, though made to fit slightly larger heads.

And on a slightly relevant note, how do you hold bits of knitting together when sewing seams? I've discovered that hair clips are rather useful fasteners, and they don't get lost like pins often do!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

my creative space

Thank you for all the great suggestions after the toddler + eggs incident! It eventually occurred to me, though, that given I needed to use otherwise wasted eggs, I could easily justify an experiment.

The last (and only) time I tried to make a sponge cake ended in disaster when I tried to remove it from the tin (visualise a large, deep handprint right in the middle of the cake and you get the idea...). So when this attempt made it successfully from the tin to the plate, we were already ahead!
The slicing and filling of the cake also worked!
While the tasting suggested that it might not win anything at the next Melbourne Show (a tad chewy - maybe left in the oven a minute too long?), it seemed to soften up over a few hours after being filled. I now think sponge cakes are not as scary as I thought, and I might start experimenting with some other recipes* and see how things progress!

Much creative excellence can be found at Kirsty's place, including some very cool giraffes from Pippiwillow, number 3 on the list!

* This one is Allan's Easy Sponge Cake from Everyday Cooking, the sequel to Everyday in the Kitchen, and very nearly as brilliant!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


There are some distinct disadvantages when your 18 month old likes to 'help' unpack the groceries.
4 survived. One is unsalvageable. Now I need to come up with ways to use 7 eggs. Fast!

Monday, July 5, 2010

What's for dinner?

While last week certainly presented some different challenges in the form of single parenting, I think I coped better than I often do. It might sound convenient, but I really think that having a decent meal plan in place definitely helped. A couple of meals got swapped around, but having scrambled eggs for lunch on the day I'd planned frittata (oops) wasn't the takeaway inducing debacle it might have been, as it was very simple to come up with an alternative because I'd already thought of one! I'm glad I did, because the frittata was really yummy a couple of nights later.

I also managed to make the chocolate croissant bread & butter pudding I'd hoped to fit in somewhere! I used plain croissants and stuck spoonfuls of King Island Chocolate Creme between the layers. I used the bread-&-butter-custard from Everyday in the kitchen. I think it would work quite nicely spiking it with pieces of dark chocolate rather than the chocolate creme. And the custard could definitely be spiked with something orangey and/or alcoholic, too. Mmmm. Maybe this week?

This week, life returns to some semblance of normality. Ahhh...
This is what I've planned:

Monday: Puttanesca Pasta
Tuesday: Chicken with roasted veges and hummus & tzatziki (fructose & lactose free*!)
Wednesday: Pumpkin & feta fritters (inspired by Sally's fritters)
Thursday: Hoisin pork & noodle stir fry (delicious July 10, p. 110)
Friday: Salmon with lentils (my recipe, here)
Saturday: Corned beef
Sunday: Vegetable & barley soup (from freezer)

I'm also hoping to make some oat and pecan biscuits. Once I get some more butter.

*Hummus will be home made, tzatziki will be optional, and the veges will be on the OK list. Apparently, onions are REALLY bad, and wheat is full of fructose as well!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A wrap vest

I'm having a bit of a run of finished projects at the moment. Novel, but exciting!

I finished this one last night. All I need to do now is find something more appropriate than a crochet hook to use as a fastener.
It's lovely and cozy, and I can't wait to try it out properly. It should see me well through this winter as the bump (aka peanut) expands, and should transfer nicely to normal wear ready for next winter.

Pattern: Michelle's version of Leonie's wrap vest
Yarn: Patons Wilderness (colourway 503), 5.1 balls
Hook: 7mm

Ravelled here.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

my creative space

It's growing! Pathetically slowly, given how much progress I make when I manage to find half an hour to hook, but it's growing all the same.

My dear friend who taught me to crochet is visiting us from Perth this week, which is wonderful for a number of reasons, not least of which is an increase in my motivation to have this finished by the end of the weekend!

If you'd like to wile away an hour or two, go on a creative adventure and visit the host of My Creative Space...