Monday, February 28, 2011

Hooray times two

The first Hooray:
My monkey socks are finished (ravelled here)! According to my sister, they look reptilian enough that if I sewed buttons for eyes on the toes I would frighten lots of people. Hmmm. Even so, they're warm and comfortable, and I might even get away with wearing them out and about under my jeans this winter! Maybe?
I have now cast on for a pair of fingerless mitts for my Dad's birthday which is in a couple of weeks. I'm optimistic that I might get them finished in time because the pattern is from Joelle Hoverson's More Last Minute Knitted Gifts. The first one is two-thirds finished so I'm still hopeful!

The second Hooray:
I'm finally back menu planning again! This is rather exciting because I find that menu planning gives me a sense of slightly more control in the highly chaotic world of parenting young children. It will also hopefully mean a reduction in food waste and less takeaway.

In addition to choosing meals using my normal methods, I've implemented Vic's Random Recipe system*. I have far too many recipe books for my own good, so I'm hoping this strategy might result in some of my neglected books getting some use. So far it's been rather successful, and I've found a couple of things I probably never would have cooked otherwise. To eliminate personal bias, I'm using to randomly choose a shelf, then a book from that shelf, a page from the book and if necessary, a recipe from the page. Though this week's Random recipe was originally Fried Bows, a Spanish sweet biscuit. Rather than serve these for dinner, I used my commonsense and generated another random number for a recipe from the same book. I figure if the recipe or book chosen isn't a dinner type of thing, I can take one step back and try again!?! I might start to experiment with non-main-meal type recipes at some stage, but for now I'm working with a single theme!

Another change to my planning at this point is that I'm not allocating particular meals to particular days. Rather, I'm just selecting 7 (or so) meals to be eaten during the week, so that I've got some flexibility if I don't get to the right shop on a given day for particular ingredients. Right now I need a sense of control without rigidity, so hopefully this strategy will deliver.

This week's menu:
Gnocchi with tomato and pancetta sauce
Zucchini, bacon and onion quiche or frittata
Beef stew (from freezer)
Chinese chicken wings
Red Mullet baked with breadcrumbs and Rancio wine (Random Recipe from 1080 Recipes)
Eggplant Parmagiana
Zucchini pasta

*Vic has also started a Meal Plan Monday Linky thing, so if you're interested in joining in or checking out some other meal plans, visit here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Space junk

When you have small children, lots of STUFF gets all over the place. While there are many disadvantages, like treading on something small when you least expect it (ouch! You'd think I'd learn to look more closely...) and every space in the house being taken over by kid clutter, I've discovered that some of it is actually useful!
Take this rather unattractive ball, for example. It's perfect for neatening up my toe grafting on my socks.

Which are now finished! Comfortably before the end of February, which was my self-imposed deadline, though not without a setback involving a two-year-old and the removal of all four needles that we wont talk about.

I will try to post proof of the completed socks in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's official

I was sitting in the waiting room at the osteopath the other day, knitting away on my particularly frightening monkey sock as I have done the past few times I've been in there, when the receptionist said to the lady she was chatting to, "Look at what she's knitting. It's a sock!".

And the lady responded, "Oh, yes, I know. I've seen her knitting in the medical centre!"

Clearly, I'm becoming the local crazy knitter lady.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Date and Apricot Loaf

Several years ago, I asked my mother-in-law for her Date Loaf recipe, because my husband had told me several times how much he loved it. As it was possibly the easiest recipe ever, it's become part of the repertoire! And it's a perfect baking option for those mornings when you desperately need to amuse a two-year-old who has the attention span of, well, a two year old.
Until you realise you don't have enough dates in the cupboard. Thankfully my problem-solving brain is beginning to show some signs of life (finally), so I added apricots to make up the difference. I think the addition was rather nice, though I'm not sure that the purist (husband) thought it was quite as good as the original!

Date and Apricot Loaf

1/2 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped (or just use a whole cup of dates if you're a purist)
1 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp bicarb soda
60g butter
1 egg, beaten
2 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice

Preheat oven to 180ºC.

Stir together fruit, sugar, water, soda and butter. When cooled slightly, add egg, flour and spices. Pour mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin, and bake for about 45 mins, until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean. Serve sliced and buttered if you like, but it's yummy just as is, too.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My creative space...

An experiment.

One I've been wanting to do for quite a while, but haven't found the five minute space required until now.
I'm trying out my interpretation of instructions for drying lavender from the garden provided to me months ago by Tanya.
I'll let you know if it works!

The home of My Creative Space is here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

my creative space...

Our vege patch is requiring some pretty intense zucchini centred creativity at the moment. To say that they're prolific would be an understatement. This 1.6 kg monster was a stealth zucchini, hiding in the garden until it was so big that we couldn't possibly NOT see it!
In an effort to turn it into an edible meal, I decided to cut it into rounds, cut out the middle and fill the holes with stuffing. It was surprisingly yummy, even if the skin was a little tough. You could use any type of stuffing you liked, but this time I used a pork, basil and parmesan stuffing and cooked it with a basic tomato sauce. Obviously, you don't need a giant zucchini to do this - normal zucchinis cut lengthways and hollowed out would be yummy, too!
Zucchini with pork, basil & parmesan stuffing
(serves 4)

1 extra large zucchini cut into rounds with seeds removed (or lots of little ones halved lengthways with seeds removed)
Olive oil
1 white bread roll
1/4 cup milk, approx
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
400g pork mince
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 jar tomato passata
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 180ºC. In a large, oiled baking dish, place the zucchini in a single layer, rubbing tops of zucchini with a little oil as well. Pull the insides out of the bread roll and put it in a bowl with enough milk to soak through all the bread. Set aside. Fry the onion in a little olive oil until translucent, add half the garlic and cook for another minute then set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, mix together pork, basil, half the parmesan, bread and milk, onion and garlic, and season well with salt & pepper. Divide the pork mixture between the zucchini slices and bake for about 15 mins.

Meanwhile, place remaining garlic in a cold saucepan with about 1 tablespoon olive oil and set over medium heat, keeping a close eye on it and stirring frequently. When it starts to colour add tomato passata (be careful, it will probably spit), bring to boil and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Season to taste.

Remove zucchini from oven, carefully pour tomato sauce around the zucchini and sprinkle stuffing with remaining parmesan. Return to oven for 20 mins or until zucchini is tender. You may need to cover the dish with foil if the sauce is drying out or the cheese browns too quickly.

Serve with salad.

The Thursday hub of creativity can be found here. Check it out for some serious inspiration!