Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gratituesday: It's All In The Timing

Posted by MANDI at 9:32 PM 1 comments
This week it's all about oven timers. Though not using them for their actual intended purpose. Oh no, no, no. Why waste a perfectly good oven timer on timing food that's cooking in the, you know, oven. No my friends, you should use it to threaten your children. Use it to enforce the time limit they have to clean their rooms before you'll go in with a garbage bag and toss everything away. Use it to make sure they stay in the bathroom and clean their teeth for a FULL two minutes. Use it to threaten a girl-child who will remain nameless that she can't have toasted marshmallows for dessert unless her dinner is finished inside the time left on the timer. And now? Now I just have to ask them to do something, wait for the mild dissent, grab the timer and voila... they can't do their jobs fast enough.

So to whoever came up with the grand idea of oven timers that ring/beep/otherwise announce that time has run out, I say a hearty, and heartfelt, thank you. You're making my life a whole heap easier in ways I'm sure you never foresaw.

Monday, May 30, 2011

On OCD, Being a Capricorn and Menu Planning

Posted by MANDI at 2:04 PM 7 comments
My fridge, or more specifically my fridge door, has been a source of great mirth amongst my friends of late. They have recently discovered the extent of my weekly menu planning and, for reasons that totally escape me, think they are hilarious. I'm not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda girl. My husband jokes that I can only be spontaneous if I'm given two weeks warning and some sort of hint as to what direction the spontaneity might be heading in. I laugh right along with him on that because, yeah, he's pretty much right. I'm heaps better now that we have the kids than I used to be. But still not great. Part of my need to know what's happening, have a routine and be super organised comes from sheer genetics (hi Dad!!). Part is from being a Capricorn - look it up, it's me to a T. All list making and routine oriented. And some is from the OCD too - when things aren't 'under control' I don't cope so well, so being organised helps me keep it all under control.


So why the menu planning? First off it does help me get organised. I use the plan to write up my shopping list then I know that I have everything I need in order to make the week's meals, it reduces waste and helps cut down on unscheduled trips to the shop where I end up spending another fifty bucks of stuff I didn't actually need at all.

Also, by jotting down what else is going on for each day I have a better idea of what I need to work around. For example, #1's football practise is on Friday afternoons and he and his Dad rarely get in before 6.45pm. #2 can't wait that late for dinner so I need something that can either be reheated easily or served an hour apart and still be edible for both parties (the slow cooker comes in super-handy here).

And finally, by sticking it on the front of the fridge I live in hope that if Hubby gets home before me he might start dinner. Or that the kids (okay, only the older one can actually read it) will see it and stop asking me "What's for dinner?" all the time. Wishful thinking on both parts but worth a try!



I also tack on the plan whatever I'm planning to bake for the week. For this week I'm hoping to whip up some min-quiches for the kids lunchboxes and I found an apple cake that I'd like to try.

The thing that really made everyone laugh is that I also note where the recipe is from. As far as I'm concerned this makes perfect sense. I have close on 80 cookbooks and about the same number of foodie mags. If I don't write down where the recipe came from I'd have to spend hours searching for the darn thing!

Amid the laughing at my menu-planning and then generally picking on me for my anal-retentive, OCD, crazy ways a couple of friends did agree that the menu-pan was in fact a good idea and few even went so far as to ask me to post up my plans so they can get some meal ideas too. So, here's this week's menu-plan.

Monday: Cottage Pie
Tuesday: Herb Crusted Fish with Roasted Asparagus
Wednesday: Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Casserole
Thursday: Fish Pot Pies
Friday: Sausage Sizzle
Saturday: out (or if we get home and need dinner, leftovers from the freezer)
Sunday: Slow Cooked Beef Hotpot

Do you menu plan? If you do, do you just jot down a bunch a meals to make in the week or do you plan what day you'll be having them? C'mon people, I need to feel not so alone in the crazy here!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Kids In The Kitchen

Posted by MANDI at 8:28 PM 1 comments
Offspring #2 and I had our second cooking session tonight. He'd leafed through the Ugly Binder and found a recipe that took his fancy. I'd made it before, though  not for some time, and was happy to add the necessary bits to the shopping list.

He did a great job tonight, especially as I wasn't super organised and we had a few things on the go all at the same time. Lesson learned there. Mum needs to give the recipe a wee bit more thought and do a bit of prep before we jump into the cooking. This week he felt a bit more comfortable wielding a sharp knife, loved the importance of switching on the gas hotplate and oven, and got a thrill out of testing the cooked-ed-ness of the pasta.

We again praised his efforts with lavish compliments - his sister even scored him 'infinity out of infinity" and ate all the pasta as well as all the broccoli from her serving. High praise from her. She left the chicken in a pile but luckily he knows of her extreme fussiness and the escalating problems we've been having with her at meals in recent times and didn't take offense.


Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Bakeadapted slightly from a recipe in Australian Table, Nov 2006



300g rigatoni, penne or macaroni
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
half a cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons cornflour
1 1/3 cups low-fat milk
3/4 cup grated low-fat tasty cheese
1 tablespoon packaged breadcrumbs
1.  Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Cook rigatoni in a saucepan of boiling salted water according to packet direction. Add broccoli for last 4 minutes of cooking time. Drain.
3.  Combine cornflour and ¼ cup of milk in a jug. Place remaining milk in a saucepan and bring to boil. Whisk in cornflour mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until sauce thickens. Stir in 1/2 cup of cheese and season to taste.
4. Combine rigatoni, broccoli, chicken and sauce. Place in a 20cm square ovenproof dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs over the top. Cook in oven for about 15 minutes until golden and bubbly. Serve with a garden salad.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Biggest and Best Morning Tea

Posted by MANDI at 9:39 PM 2 comments
I played hostess to a group of friends for morning tea today as part of Australia's Biggest Morning Tea. Sixteen lovely ladies came out to play, bearing delicious baked goods, and we gathered on the gorgeous new decked area that my ever-lovely husband spent the summer building.


To say I was fretting about the weather was an understatement. I also had my usual pre-function panic - Would people come? Would there be enough food? Had I bought enough tea/coffee/juice? What if the sky fell in??? Pleasingly the weather was delightful: cool but not too cold and sunny enough to be bright, cheery and warming. Friends from my neighbourhood and the kids school as well as a few old buddies arrived and we had enough food and drinks to feed three times our number. We also had a door prize and lots of raffle prizes - a nice way to raise a few more dollars and thank everyone for coming all at the same time!



I got a wonderful surprise when my friend Donna arrived. (Remember her? She lured us to Red Dirt Central then left after her hubby got another job offer. I cried. A lot.) She tells me she'd left a note on facebook but I hadn't seen it. Anyway, Donna drove three hours to come have morning tea with me. I was blown away when she walked around the corner. Truth be told, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry but settled for smiling like a lunatic and feeling so incredibly lucky to have such an awesome friend. I think I might even have been speechless for a few seconds, and anyone can tell you that never happens!


Anyway we ate,we drank, we laughed the day away and in the process we raised $120 for the Cancer Council of Australia. And I got to spend the day surrounded by a fantastic group of friends and feel good about it. I'm going to have to pull out my favourite word here. It was... Awesome!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gratituesday: All The Kids Are Doing It!

Posted by MANDI at 8:49 PM 2 comments
Hubby called out to me tonight and asked if I'd seen what my cat was doing. (Don't you love that he's my cat when he's doing something stupid?). I looked over at Spike, then at Hubby and we both cracked up and then yelled out "Planking!"



Yep, my kitty is soooooo cool he's joining in the newest craze. And that's what's making me smile this week.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What An Opportunity!

Posted by MANDI at 3:39 PM 4 comments
Upon checking my emails this morning I discovered this invitation:

I am a Staff of Hang Seng Bank HongKong, I do not know if we can work together in transferring $19,500,000.USD from my bank to your bank account. Finally if you are interested I shall provide you with more details. Please contact me with this Email: mrsonglile2010@yahoo.com.hk

You know, this could solve all my problems. Just think what I could do with 19 million dollars! Of course, it is in US dollars so it's not quite the windfall it would have been a year or so ago. But still, I could pay off the mortgage, quit my slowly ever more soul destroying job, and have more than enough left over to pay for the kids to go to a nice school. In another country. All kinds of awesome!

So, the question really comes down to the second part of Mrs Onglile's first sentence. "I do not know if we can work together." Considering that I'm something of a loner, and I really prefer to work on my own rather than in a team situation, I'm not sure if we can work together either. And if you've already got doubts before we even start... well I guess it's doomed to fail. So I'm sorry Mrs Onglile, but I'm gonna have to decline your invitation. But thanks so much for asking. I'm really touched that you thought of me.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ho Hum

Posted by MANDI at 10:04 PM 2 comments
I had big bloggy plans for this weekend but somehow chores and real life got in the way and now that I'm finally sitting down to blog, at almost 10pm on Sunday night, the inspiration has sort of disappeared. Mostly because I still have a few things to get done before I can hit my pillow and try for some uninterrupted sleep. Then the alarm will go off at 5.40am and I'll start all over again.

But I did lots of baking today so I've got a couple of recipes to share later in the week. And I've been giving the new slow cooker a good workout so I'm really aiming to get a post on that up too. I think I've worked out what was wrong with my camera so, fingers crossed, I'll manage to fix that and go back to taking photos of absolutely everything again. Gotta love Google when it tells you what the error message on your camera means AND how to fix it!

And something funny to leave you with:
I was pottering in the kitchen today while Offspring 2 was nibbling away at her morning tea on the other side of the bench. We were talking about names and how our names (hers and mine) are not our real names. That is, they're shortened versions of our 'proper' names.
Out of nowhere she came out with, "I wonder what my real mum's name is?"
Ummm... excuse me? I am your real mum! I was there and, since I didn't manage to get any drugs during the birthing process, I actually do remember each and every bit of it.
Hubby was walking past the open back door as she came out with it and I heard him chortling away as he headed off to the shed.
I still haven't worked out who she thinks her real mum is though!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Passing It On

Posted by MANDI at 9:03 PM 4 comments
I read a letter in one the foodie mags earlier in the week that inspired me. The letter was about how the reader and her son had started cooking dinner together one night a week and, despite letting the kids help when I'm baking a cake, it make me think about how much I don't let my kids do in the kitchen. So I decided to have a chat with my 8year old boy, Offspring #1, and see if he wanted to try something similar. 

The plan is that we'll have a flick through some cookbooks and foodie mags, as I do when I'm doing the weekly menu plan anyway, and find something that #1 would like to cook for dinner on night each week. He was desperate to tackle Spag Bol for his first meal but was persuaded to leave it a few more weeks as we already have a couple of pots in the freezer. Instead he decided that we'd make hamburgers for Friday night. So we did.


He learnt to peel and chop an onion, grate carrot and cheese, shape meat patties and turn on the gas for the hotplates. He discovered the fun of mixing a meat pattie mixture with your hands and loved watching the onion change in both colour and texture as it went from raw, white and hard to  a deliciously sauteed soft, shiny and translucent. And he found out how satisfying it is to cook something yummy and have everyone pay you lavish compliments.

We both had lots of fun and have plans to spend some time tomorrow looking for something to add to next week's menu. Look, honestly I'm not sure how long it'll last - either his interest or my patience - but I figure it's worth a try. I'll let you know how it pans out.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gratituesday

Posted by MANDI at 9:20 PM 2 comments
It's a super short one today. I'm worn out from a hectic weekend, not enough sleep and the beginnings of a cold. So... here it is:

Sore throat + Hot buttered toast with honey = Heaven.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Where Did This Child Come From?

Posted by MANDI at 7:53 PM 4 comments
The weather has finally turned here in sunny Perth and today was cool, overcast and drizzly. Not bad since we're only a couple of weeks away from winter and we've been enjoying a long, dry, warm summer since about October. I decided to cook something appropriately wintry and warming and was really looking forward to it when Offspring #2, aka Miss FussyBum, aka the thorn in my side when it comes to mealtimes, asked the question that echoes round the world.

Her: Mum, what's for dinner?
Me: Roast beef, roasted vegies and apple pie for dessert.
Her: Yuk! I don't like any of that.
Me (grimacing and trying not to throttle her): Hmmmm...
Her (suddenly brightening up): Oooh, can I have ice cream with the pie. But just a little bit of pie. Or maybe none, just ice cream.
Me (resigned and nodding): Sure, as long as you eat your dinner.
Her (triumphant): Sure, as long as you don't give me much.

She ate her dinner, complete with tomato sauce, despite complaining that the roast carrots were 'sour', I'd given her too much meat and the roast potatoes should have been peeled because she doesn't like skin. But... she ate her dinner. And yes, she got ice cream with her pie. She ate all the ice cream and some of her pie. We call that a win. For both of us. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Beef Ribs, American Style

Posted by MANDI at 7:50 PM 4 comments
I have to start by saying I have never eaten ribs before. Well, that's not quite true, I made that lamb rib roast the other week, but eating ribs as ribs? Never done it. Generally I've seen pork ribs and since I'm not a fan of pork I've always avoided them but the other day I found a recipe for beef ribs in the slow cooker. Then I happened upon some beef ribs and bought them with much haste and even more joy. Fast forward to last night when, upon glancing at my menu plan, I realised I didn't actually have the other ingredients I needed. My cupboards, like Mother Hubbard's, were bare and an onion could not be found. So scratch that idea and come up with something new. A wee bit of googling, a quick perusal of ideas over at taste.com.au and I had something new to try for dinner tonight. What can I say? These were sweet, but not too sweet. Sticky, but not crazy sticky. They sure weren't pretty but they tasted great. If you're looking for a different kind of meat dish to keep the man in your life happy this is for you. If you're on a diet  you'd best click away to somewhere else real quick!

Anyway, the original recipe is over here but this is my version with a couple of minor changes. I served mine with baked potatoes and steamed vegies in an effort to 'healthy it up' just a bit!

American-Style Sticky Beef Ribs
Adapted from a recipe on taste.com.au

Ingredients
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
1kg beef ribs, trimmed 
1. Combine tomato sauce, honey, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, mustard and salt and pepper in a ceramic dish. Add ribs and turn several times to coat thoroughly.
2.Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place ribs on tray and spoon excess marinade over the ribs.
3. Turn oven down to 130C. Bake ribs for 2 1/2 hours, turning ribs over once or twice, or until cooked through.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It Could Have Been Worse

Posted by MANDI at 7:29 PM 0 comments
I had a hilarious (hmmm, should that an hilarious or a hilarious?) conversation the other day about the first time our children said something um... inappropriate and, while as a parent we were collectively horrified, we also kind of had to recognise the little echo for what it was and in most cases were almost impressed that our kids actually used the word(s) in the right context. Wrong, wrong, wrong but funny. Especially as so many joined in the conversation and we were all in fits of laughter. In my case it was my then sweet 18month old who kinda shocked me when I was driving and got cut off by a car pulling in front of me. My "oh you..." was finished very nicely by the baby. And the mummy in the car knew her swearing days really needed to come to an end there and then!

Anyway, hot on the heels of that conversation I pulled up at the library yesterday and Offspring #2 opened the door and hopped out onto the curb. I still have no idea what she was exclaiming over but all I heard was the sweet little five year old voice absolutely BOOMING out, "Oh, Good Lord!"

People, I lost it there and then. I laughed so hard I was almost crying. Then I had to tell her that, generally, little girls don't run around saying that and that perhaps, "Goodness me!" might be a nicer version. Then I giggled again and ruined all my good work. But really, based on the things I've heard various kids (including mine) come out with, it could have been soooooo much worse!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

How NOT To Get To A Blogging Meet-Up

Posted by MANDI at 5:25 PM 11 comments
Last night I went to a bloggers meet-up and met some of the Perth bloggers I have long admired. I met some I'd only come across recently and I met a few who I'm planning to cyber-stalk until the end of time. In a good way! You'd think that would be the most exciting, pulse-racing, can't-quite-catch-my-breath part of the night wouldn't you? But no. For me (and I apologise for borrowing this phrase from every reality tv show every) it was all about the journey.

You know I have no sense of direction, right? That I get lost? A lot? It doesn't even matter if I know where I'm going. Chances are I'm still going to take a wrong turn, miss a set of traffic lights or just plain stuff up the directions somewhere along the way. Yes I have a GPS. No it doesn't always help. It generally just means I get a little bit less lost than I might do otherwise.

So I started out with my highest boots on, dressed up for a night out at a bar. I don't even remember the last time I went to a bar. I was ready to meet and greet, schmooze and move, influence and be influenced. Oh okay, I was bloody nervous but I had great boots and lots of makeup on so I figured I'd wing it and and hope it turned out okay. Anyway, as I left Hubby asked if I wanted the GPS in my car. I looked at him with airy unconcern, assured him I knew where I was going and declined his kind offer. First mistake.

I tootled off, music blaring and fingers tapping on the steering wheel. I congratulated my speed-demon self when I passed a police speed camera actually doing the 70kph that was the speed limit. And then drove straight through a set of traffic lights that I should have hung a left at. Second mistake.

It took me another 15 or so minutes to work that mistake out. Third mistake.

But all was not lost. I knew where I could hang another left and get myself back on track. Sure it'd put me a little behind schedule but that was okay. I knew where I was, I knew where I was going and I knew how to get there. Right? Um.... no. And that'd be the fourth mistake. And the seventh mistake too.

But I hit the tunnel under the city (sort of, it's kind of next to it but you get my point) and watched the signs carefully so I didn't miss my exit. Then I missed my exit. Fifth mistake. And ended up on the freeway on the other side of the city. Sixth mistake. Telling myself not to panic I executed a very nice manoeuvre whereby I swung across five (yes five!) lanes of traffic and grabbed the first exit I could find. All okay except for the whole not knowing where the hell I was. There may have been a lot of swearing in the car right about then. To be honest, there probably was. But I didn't panic. I figured I was only just on the other side of the city and if I followed the road I was on I'd hit a set of traffic lights that would probably be a fairly major road and, with any luck, I'd recognise the road name and work out where I was. Finally something went my way. I did hit a set of traffic lights. I did recognise the name and I did turn the right way to get me back where I needed to be. Then I hit another road I recognised, not too far from where I was heading, and by an absolute fluke took the right turn again. Totally accidentally! Yay me!!

With a very big sigh of relief I tootled across to where I thought I needed to be. Yeah. Thought. But of course that wasn't where the bar was at all. People, I do believe we're up to mistake number seven. The one I referred to earlier. Again with the 'don't panic' self-talk I found a side street with some parking and called Hubby. Who laughed. And then looked up the real address. And told me how to get there.

Righto. Start again. Missed a road I needed and ended up in a totally different suburb. Again. Mistake number eight. On the bright side, at this point I knew where I was, I really did know where I was going and finally I knew how to get there.

Fast forward all of about 10 minutes and wa-lah! I was finally there. An hour and a half  after I started out. But there none-the-less. The trip home was somewhat less torturous though there is a distinct possibility that I may have taken one wrong turn. But that one was easily fixed and that journey took me decidedly less time than the one I'd undertaken earlier in the evening!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I Think That Answers My Question

Posted by MANDI at 5:46 PM 5 comments
I was cleaning up Offspring #2's room the other day and noticed that one of her curtains had a massive rip in it.

Me (sternly): What happened to your curtain, #2?
Her: I don't know.
Me: #2! It didn't get ripped all on its own. What happened to it?
Her: I. Don't. Know. But it didn't get cutted with scissors.

Hmmm... does that answer my question or not?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Easy Lunchbox Treat

Posted by MANDI at 9:41 PM 5 comments
This is seriously the easiest slice you could ever come across. The kids tasted it at the neighbours, demanded a copy of the recipe, delivered said recipe to me and then demanded I make it. Right then! This is a chocolate-y, sweet treat that's perfect for the lunchbox or for after school. It freezes beautifully too.

School's back tomorrow and when I got home from work today I realised there was next to nothing in the cupboard and that I probably needed to whip something up. What to make?  Aunty Lynette's Chocolate Slice to the rescue.

Lynette's Chocolate Slice




Makes 24 pieces

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup coconut
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg, beaten
125g butter, melted

Chocolate Icing
2 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 tablespoon butter
splash of milk (1 - 2 tablespoons roughly)

Preheat oven to 180C. Line lamington tin with baking paper.
Mix dry ingredients together. Add egg and butter. Mix well.
Spread into lined tin, pat smooth and cook at 180C for 20 minutes
Leave to cool completely in tin. When cool, ice with chocolate icing and sprinkle with coconut.
Cut into squares

Icing
Put icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Add butter and mix together. Add milk, a little at a time, until icing is smooth and spreadable.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gratituesday

Posted by MANDI at 8:14 PM 3 comments
I love that I regularly do stupid stuff and make myself laugh. None of the dumb stuff I did today is worth sharing - they're all kind of location jokes and won't translate all that well - but just know that I cracked up laughing at myself three times today. And even now, sitting on the couch watching Masterchef, the memory of that is making my smile. And that, my friends, makes it a good day. A good Tuesday. Which is perfect for a Gratituesday post.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Last Day Of Holidays

Posted by MANDI at 8:56 PM 2 comments
Well for me anyway. Everyone else in the house has a few more days left!

We caught up with some special friends today - we met them in Red Dirt Central when the boys were in kindy and have stayed in touch through their travels around Australia and both families eventual moves back to Perth. They live over an hour away so catch-ups are generally left till the school holidays and this time we decided to have them head our way for a picnic. We took them up to Mundaring Weir and walked across the top of the weir, fed the birds, ate lots of yummy picnic food, cheered while the boys played footy and found some kangaroos to delight our 'city' friends. We had beautiful weather and it was so great to catch up with Jodi and the kids. Now I just have to convince them to give up their life down in the suburbs and come live up here in the hills!




 

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