Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Weekend. Mostly In Pictures.

Posted by MANDI at 10:58 PM 3 comments
Spike, aka Psycho Spyko, aka Spike-a-licious, chilling out on the couch.


We went shopping for vegie seedlings.


Then Hubby and the kids planted them.





I sat around drinking tea, reading the paper and not doing an awful lot else. It was nice. Really nice.



A neighbour was wanting to get rid of some plants. Funnily enough they were exactly what we wanted for out the front. Hubby and the boy-child wandered off and dug them up, loaded them into the trailer and brought them home. Then Hubby and the kids planted them. I took photos. That was helping. Sort of.



Look. Girl-child was obviously helping a lot. You know, if dirty knees are a measure of how helpful one is.



Here's the ever helpful (NOT!!) puppy. She's now 5 months old, completely naughty, far too clever for own good and apparently she quite likes to dig. She really likes digging my roses. I really don't like that.



I did manage to spend most of today playing in the kitchen. And covering every inch of the kitchen bench.  Look, you can see my computer at the top of the photo - I promised Kaz ages ago that I'd put a picture of it on here so she could see it. It's on a swinging arm attached to the end wall and I can have it facing me when I'm working in the kitchen or turn it around when I want to sit on the other side of the bench. The very clever Hubby sorted that for me.



And I had my first ever attempt at making Macarons. They weren't a complete success but they worked well enough that I want to have another go. I also made custard from scratch for the first time ever. If I'd known it was that easy I would have done it years ago. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Time For A New Challenge

Posted by MANDI at 8:28 PM 4 comments
Remember last week when I told you about that job I was offered?  Initially it was a relief/acting type position filling in for someone over the next month or so and I said no. My current position is a casual contract position and, while I've been in it for over 12 months, I wasn't prepared to ditch it for something else that might mean I'd end up with no job at all.

Then it turned into a contract till the end of the year with a good possibility that it will be extended and some chance that it will lead to a permanent position. And my current boss all but promised (as much as she could, considering it's government and all) that I'd have something to come back to at the end. And head office all but promised that they'd make sure my current boss would have something for me to come back to.

So after a few phone conversations, a bit of negotiating and a whole lot of thinking... I said yes.

I finish up next week and start the new position the week after. I'm so excited. So excited that the nerves haven't set in yet. But they will.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gratituesday: The Hubby Lovin' Edition

Posted by MANDI at 6:43 PM 2 comments
Just in case you're new to my little blog and don't know what the heck Gratituesday is... it's a weekly event where I tell  you about something I'm grateful for. As you can probably tell it all happens on a Tuesday and I'd love you to join in, either by leaving a comment here or making your own Gratituesday post on  your blog.


Fifteen years ago today, right around this time, I met my lovely hubby. Of course he wasn't my hubby then. Just a terribly polite, very nice young thing who'd agreed to collect me for a social event for my brand new workplace as a favour to my brand new flat mate. Fast forward just a few short weeks and we were in lurve, moving in and planning a life together. Fast forward fifteen years and here we are - married, mortgaged and as deliriously in love as ever. Actually more in love than ever.

And just to further prove how wonderful he is...

Offspring #1 desperately wanted to visit Sizzler during the school holidays. I hate Sizzler. I hate buffet style meals so, to be fair it's not a hatred that's confined to Sizzler. The thought of eating at a restaurant that deals in buffet style dining makes my stomach turn. Scratch that. It makes my stomach heave. 

I worked today and hubby and the kids were planning their day out. Wonderful, clever, brave Hubby organised to take the kids to Sizzler for lunch while I was at work.

Two birds, one stone, everyone's happy.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Musings, a Menu Plan and More!

Posted by MANDI at 8:41 PM 2 comments
Okay, there's not really More but I couldn't think of a catchy title for the post!

Hubby and I went to see the latest, and last, Harry Potter movie yesterday. Loved it! But was also a little disappointed by it - won't go into too much detail as I don't want to give stuff away (though if you haven't read the books you have no place seeing  the movies, so there!!) but I felt that  there were lots of characters who just kind of stood around and didn't really have any lines, Ginny especially didn't get to do much where in the book she had a fairly huge part. Also there were lots of deaths but they all happened so fast that for some of them I didn't even realise they'd happened until later in the movie. But... still totally loved it and can't wait to see it again.

As a result of seeing Harry Potter yesterday... (and you might have already seen this on twitter) Hubby was annoying me this morning and I totally waved my hand at him and shouted "Expelliarmus." He stopped annoying me. Mostly to fall about laughing but still, he stopped annoying me. Proof that Harry spells really do work!

We went out to collect firewood today. My whole body hurts.

Made this slice this afternoon. I used dried apple and dried apricots in place of the choc chips in an effort to make it a 'healthy treat'. I fear that the butter and sugar in it may have cancelled out those efforts.

And the menu plan.  I'm sad to report that the week of junk food wasn't the success I thought it would be. Despite her input , and my efforts to please, Miss Fussy still turned her nose up at dinner more nights than not. If she won't even eat the meals that she chooses, what hope have I got? You can see I'm suffering from a lack of inspiration as we move into the second week of school hols:

Monday: Spaghetti Bolognaise (we didn't get to it last night)
Tuesday: Beef and Vegetable Pie
Wednesday: Slow Cooker Curried Sausages
Thursday: ?
Friday: ?
Saturday: Lancashire HotPot
Sunday: ?

Baking: Choc chip slice (with dried fruit instead, see above!), date loaf.

What are you planning for meals this week? Quick, inspire me. Please.

Friday, July 15, 2011

School Holiday Fun

Posted by MANDI at 9:07 PM 1 comments
I did a bit of juggling with my work hours today and managed to end up with the afternoon free. Yay! Except it was bucketing with rain. Not to be put off I raced home from work, organised Hubby and the kids and off we went. First stop was the lighting shop to collect our new kitchen lights (more on them later in the week), then onto Ikea to look at bunk beds and loft beds (more on that in another post too) and then onto the proper bit of the holiday fun. The beach.

We hit Scarborough where it was freezing cold, windy as all get out, threatening to rain and the sun was about to set. And still the kids wanted to take their shoes off and run along the beach. Ummm... no. We vetoed their idea but stood out looking at the ocean at sunset and oohed and aahed as the kite surfers fooled around in the wind and the surfers did not very much in the tiny little waves, pointed out the hotel where Mum and Dad spent their wedding night and exclaimed over the enormous houses along the beach front. When we were all thoroughly frozen, which took less time that you might imagine, we jumped back in the car and headed on to part two of the fun afternoon.

We drove south along the beach a little way and ended up down at Cottesloe where we found a fish and chip shop that had tables inside.  We ate some seriously yummy food across the road from the beach, watching the waves and licking our salty fingers. Yummo! 

And onto part three of the fun. A 50 cent ice cream cone from one of the fast food stores on the way home. And then home to a nice warm house where we tucked the offspring into bed only a few minutes after their regular bedtime. Now that's a good way to do it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Busy Day

Posted by MANDI at 8:48 PM 2 comments
I think I'll be glad to go  back to work tomorrow for a rest! It was my day off and , although I didn't venture past my front gate, I haven't stopped all day. Actually I did go past the gate. I did my walk first thing this morning (well first thing after I had a nice little sleep in.  Still loving the school hol's!). I've cooked and cleaned, gardened and washed and an nicely worn out after all my efforts.

I saw this Easy Pear Tea Cake over at Not Quite Nigella yesterday and knew I'd have to make it. It tastes as fabulous as it looks and I can't recommend it highly enough. It was super easy to make, looks very impressive and tastes delicious. You totally need to make this.



I'm most pleased that I finally got around to doing a bit of weeding and tidying up in the yard. With the cooler temps and the little bits of rain we've had the weeds have sprung up and had pretty much taken over the tiered flower bed at the front of the house. I got in there today and ripped out weeds leaving the plants looking much nicer and me feeling much happier with how it looked.



I also got in with my secateurs and attacked the roses. They've had a good pruning and I'm looking forward to lots of lovely blooms.




And now, despite it being barely 9pm, I'm heading for the shower and then bed. I'm plum tuckered out!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gratituesday

Posted by MANDI at 7:14 PM 5 comments
Just in case you're new to my little blog and don't know what the heck Gratituesday is... it's a weekly event where I tell  you about something I'm grateful for. As you can probably tell it all happens on a Tuesday and I'd love you to join in, either by leaving a comment here or making your own Gratituesday post on  your blog.

So this morning, totally out of the blue, I got offered a job. But I turned it down. Then the person doing the offering called me and we had a chat and she's off to see if some of the things I need can be done. I'm not holding my breath but I'm pretty chuffed she's going to try make it happen. Also, I felt like I'd let her down somewhat some years ago so it was doubly nice to find out that not only did she not think that at all but that she's actually quite eager to poach me to her site. There's my little something - totally unexpected, a little bit of a professional ego boost and it made my day.

What's making you feel special, grateful, appreciated or just plain happy today?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Putting the Kids in Charge!

Posted by MANDI at 9:05 PM 2 comments
Today is the official first day of school holidays here in WA and we've had a lovely day. The kids were super quiet this morning and Hubby and I enjoyed a lovely sleep in until 7.30! I love that now both kidlets are past the must-be-fed-immediately-upon-waking stage and also that they're old enough to grab some books or a game and play quietly until we wake up (or they decide we've slept long enough and the day should be starting!). And yes, when the alarm usually goes off at 5.40 in the morning 7.30 is an ENORMOUS sleep-in.

As it is school holidays the kids have requested lots and lots of junk food and I've given in to their request. Sort of. I put them in charge of this week's menu and told them they had to come up with a bunch of meals that mean 'junk food' to them. But there are some conditions. The first one was that we wouldn't be buying any of the junk food - I had to be able to make it all at home. They've also got to eat the salad or vegies that I serve with each meal, but I'll be doing my best to make them part of the dish or disguise them where I can so that they'll think they've had a total week of junk but I'll know they haven't.

Here's the menu plan, as designed by Offspring #1 and Offspring #2, for this week:
Monday: Hamburgers
Tuesday: Fish and Chips
Wednesday: Chicken and Salad. All mixed up together. On one big plate in the middle of the table. With sauce and stuff for dipping. (This was one of #2's contributions - I think because I make this as an easy meal she equates that with junk food. Either way, it's an odd choice but one I'm happy to accommodate!)
Thursday: Pies
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: friends to dinner - Lamb Shanks in the slow cooker
Sunday: Spaghetti Bolognaise (they know it's not junk food but they love it and decided to include it)
Baking; Choc chip cookies, apple cake

Let's just revisit those meal ideas, shall we?
  • Tonight's hamburgers were home-made meat patties, fresh hamburger rolls and lots of salad.
  • The fish and chips will be pan fried hake with store bought chips and a big salad
  • Wednesday night's chicken and salad isn't even remotely unhealthy. I don't need to do a whole lot to fix anything there!
  • Thursday's pie filling will be a very delish pot of leftover beef and vegie hotpot from the freezer. I'll probably use frozen pastry, simply because I have some in the freezer. And I'll serve more vegies onthe side. Tricky, I know.
  • Friday's pizza - the kids will have ham cheese and pineapple, as they always do. Hubby and I'll have something a bit more upmarket, depending on what's left in the fridge by that stage.

Add in their regular breakfast of cereal, toast and fruit along with a sandwich or wrap for lunch, fruit for morning tea and the odd cookie or piece of cake for afternoon tea and I'm thinking that this whole junk food week really isn't that bad at all. But don't tell the kids!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Slow Cooker Week: Weekend

Posted by MANDI at 8:27 PM 1 comments
Osso Bucco. Yum! So simple, so full of flavour and when there's a slow cooker involved, just so easy.

Osso Bucco
Adapted slightly from Slow Cookers: more than 100 easy recipes. Published by Murdoch Books.



Serves 4 (but I reckon it serves six easily)

1/2 cup plain flour
1 kg beef osso bucco (I used six good sized pieces)
2-3 tblsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
3/4 cup white wine
1 cup frozen peas (oops, I forgot them!)
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1. Switch your slow cooker onto low and spray the inside of the cooker bowl with canola oil.
2.Put the flour in a large ziplock bag and season with salt and pepper. Add the osso bucco and give it a good shake to coat the meat with flour.
3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the occo bucco in batches and cook for about 5 minutes each side or until golden brown all over. Place the osso bucco into the slow cooker.
4. Add more oil to the frypan (if needed) and saute onions and carrots, stirring, for 5 or so minutes until softened. Spoon over the meat in the slow cooker. Add peppercorns and bay leaves to the slow cooker and pour the tomato over.
5. Pour wine into the frypan and using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any meat or vegetables stuck to the pan. Simmer for a couple of minutes until wine has reduced slightly. Pour into the slow cooker.
6. Cook Osso Bucco for 5-6 hours on HIGH, or until the beef is tender. Add the peas and cook for a further 5 or so minutes.  Serve with mashed potato and steamed vegetables.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Slow Cooker Week: Friday

Posted by MANDI at 9:50 PM 0 comments
I was out last night - a couple of girlfriends and I snuck off for an early dinner and to see Bridesmaids. I haven't laughed that much in so long. At some points I was literally gasping for breath. Not least because one of the friends in question is a snorter. She laughs nicely most of the time but when something's really funny, she snorts. Which makes everyone around her laugh too. Which makes her laugh more. You get where this is going right? The movie was hilarious, we laughed, she snorted, we laughed more and then something else funny happened and we did it all over again. I came home seriously exhausted! But in the best way. Anyway, the film was great. Definitely not high brow, totally lived up to expectations of a review I'd read that described it as "a blokes movie for chicks" and if you're even remotely conservative or easily offended I wouldn't suggest you see it. But we loved it.

No pictures for tonight's recipe. I've made this one a few times and each time it gets polished up. Even Little Miss Fussy likes it! You can add vegetables and really flesh out the dish or, as I do, steam some beans and carrots to go with them. This really is a cheap and cheerful dish and is lovely on a cold night.

Slow Cooked Curried Sausages

1 packet of sausages (I just grab a pack of 8 or so sausages from the the grocery store)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 green apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tin diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock

1. Switch slow cooker onto low and spray inside of cooker with canola oil.
2. Cut your sausages apart and put them in a big pot of boiling water. Boil for 5 to 10 minutes then drain and leave to cool slightly.
3. While sausages are cooling, heat oil in pan and saute onion. Add curry powder and apple and stir to combine. Cook for a minute or two until aromatic. Add tomato and stock. Set aside
4. Peel skin off sausages (they'll come off pretty easily) and chop each sausages into four or five pieces. Place in bottom of slow cooker. Pour curry mix over the top. 
5. Cook on low for 4 hours.
6. Serve with rice, and steamed vegies if you wish.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Slow Cooker Week: Wednesday FAIL

Posted by MANDI at 8:30 PM 2 comments
Urgh. I'm tired and Offspring is about to be on. Why don't you lot just talk amongst yourselves tonight. Okay?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Slow Cooker Week: (grati)Tuesday

Posted by MANDI at 8:30 PM 1 comments
As I'm typing up this post Spike the kitty, who just celebrated his 6 month birthday, is chasing a piece of uncooked penne up and down the hallway. I made a quick pasta dish for dinner and dropped a couple of bits of pasta on the floor and they've kept him amused for the better part of three hours. Cheapest cat toy ever! And highly amusing for the humans of the house too. Gotta love pets that love to cuddle and keep you laughing.

More Slow Cooker tips: Did you know that each time you lift the lid while you're cooking you need to add an extra half hour of cooking time? Well, now you do! So don't lift the lid. Or, if like me you can't resist giving the dinner a bit of a stir, be sure to allow the extra time needed when you're doing your planning and prep.

Got any tips you want to share. Any fab meals you've made in the slow cooker that you think someone else might like to try? Don't be shy...

And here's Tuesday's recipe. Good old Pea and Ham Soup. Easy to make at the best of times but even better in the slow cooker. To be honest, I'm not a huge pea and ham soup fan but Hubby is and, as I am a huge fan on his, I make it a couple of times each winter to make him happy. We generally have it for dinner the night I make it then I freeze the rest in single portions so he can take it for lunch or if we're having an easy dinner over the weekend. Hubby's grandma is also a fan (of him and the soup!) so I usually send her some too.

Pea and Ham Soup
Slow Cooker by Sally Wise
Serves 4-6



3 carrots
1/2 parsnip (optional)
1 onion
300g green split peas
300g bacon bones or ham hock (I generally use bigger because that's what I've got - extra meat is just fine by the carnivorous man I'm married to)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 cups water (this is way too thick, I always add more water at the end to thin it a bit).

Peel and dice the carrots and parsnip. Peel and finely dice the onion. Place in the slow cooker with the remaining ingredients and stir.
Place lid on cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Slow Cooker Week: Monday

Posted by MANDI at 8:20 PM 3 comments
Before we get to the slow cooker part of the post, check out my bargain buy...



I picked this up at the post office (of all places) this morning. It was in the clearance display and I couldn't walk past it. $10, flowery, pink and lime green. What more could a girl ask for? At work my cuppa always ends up going cold, I think this is the perfect way to make it stay hot just a little bit longer and hopefully I might even get to drink it!

Right, more slow cooker hints. Some cookbooks say you must brown the meat before you add it to the slow cooker while others tell you not to bother so it really is up to you but I find that browning the meat first makes a huge amount of difference to the end product. Browning the meat seals in the juices and the flavour and, in my opinion, if your making a casserole-y type dish you need to brown the meat first to give it all the extra flavour that turns a good dinner into a great one. Also, if I'm browning the meat (red meat that is, not chicken) I'll dust it in flour first - that lets the sauce really thicken up and get some nice texture. Otherwise I find the sauce/juice ends up really runny and takes away from the flavour too.

Another good tip I was told was to give the inside of your slow cooker bowl a light spray with canola spray. It helps stop the food from sticking quite so much and makes it heaps easier when you're doing the washing up.

The recipe I'm sharing now is the one we had for dinner tonight. So, quite literally, straight from the table to you! It's in the current issue of Australian Good Taste as an oven slow cooked meal but I've halved the recipe, changed a couple of things and done it in the slow cooker instead.  It was absolutely delish - Hubby and Offspring #1were most extravagant with their praise. #2 had a boiled egg instead. (But I knew she wouldn't like this, plus she hasn't been terribly well so I offered her egg and toast straight up!) . I served it with some steamed carrots and beans. The photo is absolutely disgusting - this is no reflection on the yumminess of the dish. Do you know how hard it is to make anything brown look appetising?? The original recipe had red chilli in it but as none of us are big chilli fans I left it out.

Slow-Cooked Beef Ribs with Cinnamon and Sweet PotatoAdapted from a recipe in Australian Good Taste, July 2011
Serves 4


1/2 cup plain flour
1kg beef spare ribs
3 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup beef stock
400g can diced tomatoes
400g sweet potato , peeled, cut into 2cm pieces
1 tbsp honey
Chopped fresh parsley, to serve

1. Switch slow cooker onto low and spray the inside of the bowl lightly with canola spray.  Put flour, ribs, salt and pepper in a ziplock bag. Seal bag and shake until ribs are thoroughly coated with flour. Heat 1 tblsp oil in a frying pan and cook half the ribs for 2 minutes each side, or until browned. Transfer to slow cooker and repeat with remaining ribs.
2. Heat remaining oil in the pan  and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, paprika and cinnamon. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes or until aromatic. Add the stock and tomato and stir through. Bring to the boil then allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Pour spiced tomato mixture over the ribs in the slow cooker. Add sweet potato and honey and stir to combine.
4. Cover with lid and cook on low for 7 hours or until the meat is falling of the bone. Scatter chopped parsley over to serve.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

It's Slow Cooker Week!

Posted by MANDI at 5:08 PM 5 comments
In my (totally self-proclaimed) role as leader of all cooking, I do declare this to be The Week Of The Slow Cooker. Yep, we're celebrating that terrific invention that, through my 70's childhood came in garish orange, poo brown and vile green and was known as the Crock Pot. Now they're all sleek and shiny and chrome and pretty but they do exactly the same job - cook delicious meals over a long period of time leaving you free to get on with your day.

I don't pretend to be an expert on them. My first one lasted about four years and now I'm onto my second and love, love, loving it. I'm one of those cooks that's great with a recipe but not so great without one so it took me a while to get the hang of switching a regular recipe to make it work out in the slow cooker but eventually I got there. I did find that the slow cooker recipe books that were Australian or English were much nicer than the American ones. The former were full of recipes with fresh ingredients where I found that the latter relied on lots of tinned, canned or bottled goods. A couple of my favourites are Slow Cooker by Sally Wise, Slow Cookers: more than 100 easy recipes published by Murdoch Books and The Australian Women's Weekly Slow Cooker . All terribly original titles, I'm sure you'll agree! I also find lots of good recipes in the foodies mags, particularly Australian Good Taste and Super Food Ideas.

Here are the slow cooker recipes I've posted before. Have a look through and see if anything takes your fancy.

I'm actually a little surprised that I can only find three slow cooker recipes on here - if I'm doing lamb shanks, beef hotpot or a roast of pretty much any description they're always done in the slow cooker and I know I put one for Lancashire Hotpot on the facebook page a week or so ago

So, what do you want to know about slow cookers? Are you trying to convert a recipe but not sure how? Are you searching for a particular recipe? Have you got a great recipe you want to share? Let me know and I'll open it up for you all to chime in and provide answers. And by the end of the week, hopefully, we'll all have some yummy new ideas for dinner!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stopping To Appreciate The View

Posted by MANDI at 7:08 PM 3 comments
Of course this could also have been titled "Now You Know How Easily I Get Sidetracked And End Up Running Late!" But I thought that was a bit long.

Yesterday morning the sun was up late and it was wet, cold and misty out. As I was doing the regular morning rush of organising kids, sorting school bags, making lunches and getting myself ready for work I glanced out the front window. The sun was shining through the trees and bouncing through the mist and it looked all spooky and beautiful at the same time.

So I did what any good blogger does. Ignored the ever-more-quickly ticking clock, grabbed my camera and raced outside. And this is what took my breath away.


I'm not a big fan of winter. Even the mild winters we have here in Perth are too wet and cold for my liking but when this appears out my front window... I kinda see the attraction.

Note: Yes, that's more reno stuff in the corner of the picture and yes, it does rather detract from the shot but that's what you get in reno-land.
 

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