Friday, August 31, 2007

Tasty... Eventually

Posted by MANDI at 8:25 PM 2 comments
This dish turned out great… eventually. I really think there were some errors in the recipe, particularly relating to the cooking time. This was in a chapter titled “Slow Cooking” yet only had a cooking time of 45 minutes. In reality it took near enough to two hours to cook properly, so maybe it was supposed to read 1 hour and 45 minutes? It was a bit of a downer that it took so long to cook as it meant we didn’t get to eat it on the night I’d actually planned it for but, when we did have it the next night it was great. It had lots of flavour without being overpowering and we all enjoyed it. I will make it again, (especially as I have a jar of capers sitting in the fridge!) as it was tasty and was also easy to prepare but next time I’ll make the few changes I have noted. Sorry, no pics - the camera is off being looked at by camera-knowledgey-type people.

Chicken Drumsticks with Italian Flavours
Everyday Cooking by Allan Campion and Michele Curtis

8 chicken drumsticks, skin removed (I didn’t)
4 potatoes, diced
1 red onion, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
80g (1/2 cup) pitted olives
2 tablespoons capers, soaked
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chipped rosemary and thyme (I used dried mixed herbs)
60ml (¼ cup) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 180˚C.
Place all ingredients, except stock, in a deep baking dish and toss well to combine. Pour over enough stock to just cover (I found this somewhat confusing – just cover what? The bottom of the pan, all of the ingredients? I put enough stock to come about halfway up the chicken mixture and ended up thinking that was too much. I would probably put an inch or so in the bottom of the baking dish) and roast in the preheated oven for 45minutes to 1 hour. (I cooked it for nearly 2 hours, and left it uncovered for the last hour, and only at that point were the potatoes, onions and chicken sufficiently cooked) Stir occasionally.

The stock is (supposed to be) absorbed as this dish cooks, resulting in a great one-pot dinner that needs only a green salad to complete. Serves 4.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Things That Go Bump

Posted by MANDI at 9:26 PM 5 comments
There hasn't been much cooking here in the past few days. I have taken on more tutoring and pack them all into the first part of the week. I aim for easy-to-put-together dinners that are prepped and ready to go on these nights so that hubby just has to dish them up. He's a great cook but I feel somewhat guilty leaving him to make dinner, take care of the kids all afternoon and then get them bathed and ready for bed too. Which is kind of dumb, since they are his kids too, I'm out earning money for stuff we want (like our next holiday) and I do the dinner/kids/bath/bed routine on a fairly regular basis! Aaahh, Mummy guilt. It's a powerful thing.
More Mummy guilt today. I was particularly proud of Offspring #2's smooth transition from her cot to her new 'big girl bed'. The bed was delivered last week and she loves it. She has been quite happily having her day-time naps in her new bed while still sleeping in the cot at night. I had also been a little boastful (yeah, I admit it) that she was getting a pretty haircut on Thursday and had no visible injuries to mar her upcoming birthday photos. Why, oh why, do I never learn?? Of course she fell out of bed today, while fast asleep (though not for long!), cutting both her eyelid and just near the corner of her eye on the drawers next to her bed. Amid much blood and screaming I raced her off to Emergency - yes, we are taking up permanent residence there - where she promptly stopped bleeding and screaming and we came home again. She has a beautifully colourful and somewhat swollen left eye and I can only imagine how much more colourful it will become. Luckily there is no real damage and she is still quite happy to climb all over her bed. I'll get hubby to bring home his work camera so I can capture her 'shiner' in all it's glory!

Monday, August 27, 2007


Posted by MANDI at 8:49 PM 2 comments
I made the most awful lamb dish for dinner last night. Needless to say I won't bother sharing the recipe here! I was disappointed on two counts. One is that we all love lamb and I was really looking forward to dinner and the second because it was from a recipe book I have used before and found to be really good. It wasn't that it tasted too bad, although it wasn't especially flavoursome, more that I ended up cooking it for twice as long as the recipe said and it still wasn't cooked properly. The vegetables in the dish were still crunchy and the lamb was barely cooked instead of barely clinging to the bone.
Oh well, at least we had lots of leftovers to use up in lamb and vegie patties for tonight's dinner. And I added a good shake of salt and pepper along with some mint and we ended up with something tasty and fun that we all enjoyed.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hello Again!

Posted by MANDI at 8:42 PM 3 comments
Yes, I am alive! I have crawled back from the brink of death - well, not exactly the brink I suppose but gosh it felt pretty close for a couple of days. I'm still not entirely well but am about a trillion percent better than this time last week. I have even started baking again - a sure sign that recovery is assured.

So, what news? Offspring #1 has finally managed to rid himself of the training wheels on his bike and is suitably proud and boastful of his balancing abilities. Now he wants to ride to school and I'm not too sure that my heart could cope with that excitement. He seems to have grown about a foot taller in the last few weeks and his bike looks ridiculously small but, luckily, Santa is aware of the problem and has the elves working on a solution. Soccer season is drawing to a close and we are all a little sad about that although the thought of spending Saturday mornings garage sale-ing rather than soccer spectating is rather exciting.

Offspring #2 has a birthday soon and, while I am planning her party, she is busy exhibiting rather typical, though less than pleasant, 2-year-old character traits. Two favourite words of the moment are "No!" and "mine!". Lovely... NOT. Her language and vocab have leapt ahead in the last month or so. After worrying that she was a little slow to talk she has well and truly developed her voice and happily orders everyone about while parrot-ing whoever is closest to her. She bangs on the back door and demands to go "out-tide", points and yells when "tars" (AKA cars) drive past, and chucks a total wobbly when the tv is on but Hi-5 (a kids show/group sort of like the Wiggles, for those not in the know) are on it! Apparently they too are at her beck and call :)

The Hubby was out crabbing today and had a whale swim underneath the boat. He said everyone else in the boat was terribly excited while he just kind of worried... a lot! But he hasn't stopped talking about it all afternoon and is just so amazed by the experience. They were only about a kilometre off shore and the whale was about 20feet long - long enough for his head to be out the front of the boat and his tail to be out the back. While it sounds amazing I'm very glad I wasn't there! Oh by the way, they caught 30 huge crabs.

My camera has finally died. I'm about to send it away to see if it can be fixed or if it needs to go to camera heaven. I have a few pics of bits and pieces but most posts will be picture-less for the next while.

I tried a recipe from Melinda at Melbourne Larder (click on the name to link across to her blog and the recipe) a couple of weeks ago and received rave reviews from all who tried the Hazelnut and Vanilla Creams. It was the first time I had roasted nuts in the oven and, while I panicked for a short moment, it turned out to be really simple and the bickies were delicious.

A decidedly blurry shot of the Hazelnut and Vanilla Creams

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Still Here

Posted by MANDI at 8:49 PM 6 comments
I am still here. I'm just not posting much as our house has, once again, been overtaken by illness. No-one has felt much like eating and I certainly haven't felt like cooking. We started the week with sick kids and ended with a certain mummy at the doctor's surgery with a sinus infection and acute bronchitis. I love that it's 'acute' - is that supposed to make me feel better about feeling so dreadful? It seems that a fairly hefty percentage of the town have been struck down with a number of viruses currently doing the rounds. Offspring #1's class had at least 10 kids away each day this week and I'm told that a number of other classrooms had similar situations. Anyway, I'm on some strong antibiotics so I'm hoping that I'll start feeling better soon. I'm not sure I could feel much worse at the moment.
I'll be back soon, I promise.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Posted by MANDI at 7:45 PM 8 comments
We have had a rather hectic few days so took the opportunity today to venture out on Hubby's new toy.

We bought the boat a few months ago and, up until now Hubby and Offspring #1 have been the only one to use it. We didn't have a lifejacket for #2 and, quite frankly, boats just aren't my thing. It's kind of a combination of deep water + drowning, muliplied by sharks + death by being eaten. To say that I have thrown any number of hurdles in Hubby's way would be an understatement but he managed to overcome all of them this weekend.

He found a teeny-sized life jacket just right for #2

The weather was beautiful - warm but not stinking hot and the water was calm and still.
And we didn't venture too far, just to one of the many islands right near the coast where the kids played, the grown-ups relaxed and we all enjoyed a picnic lunch.

The boys even managed a quick spot of fishing.

There are very few nice beaches in this part of the world. Mostly we have tidal mud-flats. But that all changes when you head for the islands where you can find any number of lovely little bays with soft white sand.

Offspring #1 loves being on the boat with his Dad, as you can probably tell by this photo.

And #2 had a great time too. She ran along the beach, jumped in the water, dug holes, built sand castles, threw the frisbee, fell over, and ended up so exhausted that she fell asleep on her little chair in the boat on the way back. Now that's tired!

You know, if he promises not to go too far or too fast I might even give it another go!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

These Are Good

Posted by MANDI at 8:59 PM 5 comments

I picked up some cheap (well, cheap-ish! They were out for $5/kg rather than the $9 we’re paying at the moment) bananas earlier in the week and hadn’t used all of them before they started turning brown. While I'm not generally a big fan of muffins, this recipe caught my eye and I was really impressed with the results. These are quite light, unlike most muffins, and have a real banana flavour They were also super easy.

Banana and Cinnamon Muffins
Cheap Eats

Makes 12

2 cups self-raising flour
1/3 cup plan flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup mashed banana (I used 4 small bananas)
2 eggs
¾ cup buttermilk (I used closer to a cup)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, extra

Cream Cheese Topping
125g cream cheese, softened
¼ cup icing sugar

1. Preheat oven to 200˚C. Grease a 12 hole muffin pan.
2. Sift flours, cinnamon, soda and sugar into large bowl; stir in banana then combined eggs, buttermilk and oil.
3. Divide mixture among pan holes; bake muffins about 20 minutes. Stand muffins in pan 5 minutes; turn onto wire rack to cool.
4. To make cream cheese topping beat ingredients together in a small bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread cold muffins with topping; sprinkle with extra cinnamon.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

There's Always Next Time

Posted by MANDI at 7:59 PM 0 comments

When this is made properly it is absolutely delicious! Luckily, I have made it before so I know how it’s supposed to turn out – creamily soft rice, tender asparagus and melt-in-your-mouth chicken. Unfortunately this time round I buggered it up in every way imaginable. Oh well, there’s always next time LOL.

Oven-baked Chicken and Asparagus Risotto
Every day by Bill Granger

2 tablespoons olive oil
500g boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (left it out)
250g Arborio rice
750ml chicken stock
175g (1 bunch) asparagus, sliced on the diagonal
35g (1/3 cup) grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large flameproof casserole over high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring frequently for 3 – 4 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from dish and set aside.
Add remaining oil and onion to casserole and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until onion is soft. Add garlic and lemon zest, stirring for 30 seconds. Add rice and stir to coat in oil. Add stock and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.
Cover the casserole and put in the oven for 15 minutes. Add asparagus, return chicken to casserole and cook a further 3 – 4 minutes or until asparagus is bright green and just tender. Stir in parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Serve with extra parmesan.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Rigatoni al Fantastico!

Posted by MANDI at 2:00 PM 0 comments

This is a recipe from one of Nigella Lawson’s books but, for the life of me, I can’t remember which one. The original recipe is for 16 people – just a little more than I need for a family dinner – so I’ve reduced it somewhat. The directions are mostly Nigella’s own, although I have left out some of the overly descriptively twee bit. I do love Nigella but sometime her twee-ness gets to me a bit.

I made this for dinner during the week and, while it is kind of time consuming and appears to be a very long recipe, it was totally worth the effort. This was seriously delicious!

Rigatoni al Forno

250g rigatoni
50g Parmesan, freshly grated

For the Meat Sauce
1 onion
1 carrot
25g streaky bacon or pancetta
1 stick celery
1 glove garlic
50g butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
500g minced beef
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 cup red wine
2 bay leaves
1 cup water, swilled in the tomato can

For the B├ęchamel
60g butter
50g plain flour
500ml milk
Salt or stock granules to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg

Roughly chop the peeled onions, peeled carrots, the bacon or pancetta and the celery. Peel the garlic clove and put it, along with the chopped veg and bacon into a food processor and finely chop. Heat the butter and oil in a large pan and fry your bacony vegetable mush gently for 10 minutes or until soft.
Add the minced beef and fork it through until it browns in the pan as much as possible. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, puree, red wine, bay and tomatoey water. Stir well and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat, partially cover and let cook gently for 2 hours.
To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan then add the flour and stir and cook together to make a roux. Take off the heat briefly, and whisk in the milk – just using a hand whisk – then put back on the heat and, stirring all the time, let the sauce come to boil and bubble away for a few minutes to get rid of the floury taste. Season with salt and pepper (or you could use some crumbled stock cube or bouillon concentrate). Turn down the heat slightly and cook until slightly thickened, though this needs to be liquid-y enough to coat the pasta easily. After turning off the heat stir some freshly grated nutmeg (I used nutmeg from a jar) through the sauce.
Preheat the oven to 200˚C and put the water on for the pasta. Cook the pasta until it’s al dente.
Drain the pasta and, while still a little wet, put it back into the saucepan and pour the white sauce over, mixing well. Add the meat sauce and mix again, until the pasta is covered in both, thought don’t worry about combining the lot smoothly. Tip the sauced pasta into a casserole dish, cover the top with grated parmesan (I added some grated cheddar too) and cook for 40 minutes or until the top is crispy and golden.


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