Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why Did I Wait So Long?

Posted by MANDI at 9:09 PM 0 comments
I've had this recipe kicking around for a while and have been meaning to try it since the first day I saw it. I'd even got as far as putting it on the weekly menu several times but it seemed like something got in the way every time I planned to make. Every time, that is, until last week.

This chicken and pasta dish was so full of flavour and everyone in the family loved it - from the littlest member right up to the Daddy. In fact three of the four of us went back for more! Another bonus as far as I was concerned was that it was a budget friendly dish - it used up some leftover bits and pieces in my fridge (like the bacon, the wine and the cream) as well as requiring several other ingredients that were already in the fridge, pantry or garden (like the butter, garlic, mustard, pasta, stock powder and parsley). I just had to buy the chicken thighs, which are pretty inexpensive, and the mushrooms and shallots which I used in other recipes as well. This one is definitely going to be made again, and fairly soon if my family have any say in it.

Nick's Chicken Master Blaster
from Good Taste magazine, September 2008

400g dried penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 bacon rashers, rind removed, very thinly sliced
600g chicken thigh fillet, excess fat trimmed, coarsely chopped
20g butter
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 shallots, end trimmed, thinly sliced
75g (1 cup) sliced mushrooms
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
80ml (1/3 cup) white wine
1/2 teaspoon chicken stock powder
1 x 300ml carton pouring cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh continental parsley
Garlic bread, to serve

1. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water following packed direction or until al dente. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.
3. Add the chicken to the frying pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until light golden. Transfer to a plate.
4. Heat the butter in the frying pan until foaming. Stir in the garlic, shallot, mushroom and mustard. Cook stirring, for 2 minutes or until the mushroom softens slightly.
5. Add the wine and stock powder. Cook for 2 minutes or until the liquid almost evaporates. Stir in the chicken and cream. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
6. Stir in the pasta. Sprinkle with the bacon and parsley. Serve with garlic bread.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy 'Stray-ya Day

Posted by MANDI at 4:47 PM 7 comments
Although today is Australia Day we were a little un-Australian and let the weather forecast dictate events for the weekend. It turns out that Mother Nature didn't much like that so she played her own joke and turned up the heat yesterday for our get together while today has been still hot by normal standards but somewhat more pleasant than yesterday afternoon!

So what did we do? Invited friends 'round for the 'Stray-ya Day Beer, Barbie and Pav.

We decorated accordingly...

Let the kids go crazy with the face-paints...

And the temporary tattoos...

The blokes enjoyed a cold beer or two while the ladies sampled some Strawberry Daiquiri Slushies (just the thing on a hot summer day)...

After the bbq and salads we tucked in to some Australian dessert offerings - from top to bottom: Trifle, Lamingtons, Pavlova, Fruit Platter of lovely summer fruits.

It was a lovely day filled with yummy food and good friends. Yes, it was another 'Stray-ya Day to remember.
Still not worked out what 'Stray-ya is? That's how most Australians pronounce the name our fine country. Of course they'll tell you they don't but if you listen carefully you'll hear it!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It's A Bumpy Ride

Posted by MANDI at 10:55 AM 6 comments
We've been riding the 'asthma train' the past few days and it's been a very bumpy ride. I've hit the point where I second-guess and doubt every decision I make about Offspring #2 and her health - I've taken her to the doctor so many times to be told that, along with the asthma (or sometimes triggering it) the cold she has is viral and no medication (beyond her asthma meds)will help. Naturally enough the next time round I put off the doctors visit only to be told she has, in this instance, a throat and nasal infection and I should have bought her in earlier so she could have been put on antibiotics.
So, she's on all her asthma meds - both preventative and relievers - along with antibiotics and steroids and a decongestant to help dry up that nose! She's taking it all in her stride and she is improving but I'm just about exhausted.
Here's hoping the train-ride ends soon.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Use The Force

Posted by MANDI at 3:30 PM 5 comments
For some bizarre reason Offspring #1's favourite character from Star Wars is Darth Vadar. It took some convincing to get him to understand that Vadar was actually a 'baddie' and he still can't see why people don't like him. That said, his buddy across the road had a Star Wars birthday party on the weekend and, as he was planning to be Annakin, kindly offered some pieces towards a Darth Vadar costume to #1. The creative part of my genetic make-up is somewhat lacking but the Daddy in our family took over and put together a terrific costume. #1 was thrilled and, just quietly, I think his Dad was pretty chuffed too!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Guest Blogger

Posted by MANDI at 5:19 PM 7 comments

We've had a busy week visiting and being visited. I've already posted a few of the bits and pieces I baked during the week so I managed to convince one of the friends we called in on to share a recipe here on the blog.

We spent Monday morning with Donna and her boys - the kids had a lovely time playing and Donna and I enjoyed a cup of coffee and tea respectively and a good gossip. We also enjoyed some yummy cookies that Donna had baked just for our visit and I twisted her arm until she sent me a pic and the recipe.

Oat and Raisin Choc-Chip Cookies
(probably from an issue of Super Food Ideas magazine ?)

Makes 28

170g butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup raisins (used sultanas instead and they were fab)
½ cup chocolate bits
½ cup desiccated coconut

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper. Place butter and honey in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until butter is melted. Remove from heat. Allow to cool.

2. Sift flour and bicarb into large bowl. Add husks from sieve. Stir in oats, sugar, raisins, choc bits and coconut. Add cooled butter mixture. Stir until well combined.

3. Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls. Place on prepared trays, allowing 3 cm for spreading. Flatten slightly with fingertips. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, swapping trays after 10 minutes, or until biscuits are golden. Allow to cool on trays. Serve.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Making Use Of That Fruit

Posted by MANDI at 9:08 PM 5 comments
You probably know my theory that if a food has fruit in it, it has to be good for you. At the very least it has to be slightly healthy. I made some lovely little cakes this afternoon that are laden with sugar and butter but they do have one tiny little slice of nectarine on the top so following my theory... they're actually good for you!

I was looking at different recipes that would help me to use up some of the fruit bounty but ran into a couple of problems. Offspring #1 had a small friend to play today who is unable to eat nuts. Not the end of the world but it did rule out a number of recipes, particularly some scrummy friands I'd had my eye on. The other problem was all my own fault - the first however-many recipes I looked at I just didn't feel like making! Then I found a lovely Donna Hay recipe for Summer Nectarine Cakes - it was sooooo lovely and I desperately wanted to make them but they called for almond meal. Oh well, I'll save that one for another day. Then I turned to Bill for inspiration. Bill Granger who I can rely on any day, any meal, any occasion. And I found exactly what I wanted. Well, exactly what I wanted after I changed a couple of things! And as you can see they met with Offspring #2's approval too. I had to include the middle pic because it makes me laugh every time I look at it. She looks so sweet until the 'crazy' comes through.

Little Nectarine Cakes
Using Bill Granger's Vanilla Cup Cake recipe (from Bill's Open Kitchen)

125g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
3 eggs
185g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1 nectarine, halved, stone removed. Cut each half into six slices
icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 12 hole 125ml (1/2 cup) muffin tray with paper cases. Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour, baking poser and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and fold into the mixture, alternating with the milk until it has a soft dropping consistency, Spoon into the cases and top each cake with a slice of nectarine. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes in the tin. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool. When cool dust with icing sugar.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Slice Of Life?

Posted by MANDI at 5:03 PM 2 comments
The Slice is Right? Slice and Dice?
Hmmm... yeah they're all pretty rotten as far as titles go LOL.
The apricot slice was a bit hit. It was very simple to prepare with the hardest bit being halving the apricots and removing the stone. A word of warning, the slice dries out fairly quickly so it's probably best to make it on the day you're planning to eat it (or, as I did, the night before if it's for morning tea) as I don't think it will keep very well. Not to worry in our house, it's nearly gone already!
Apricot Slice
from Bill's Open Kitchen by Bill Granger
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
180g butter, softened
14 apricots, pitted and halved (this may vary depending on the size of the apricots - mine were quite large, I'll use small ones next time round)
2 tablespoons caster sugar, extra
Preheat oven to 160C. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Place the eggs, milk and vanilla in another bowl and mix to combine. Pour the egg mixture and butter into the well in the dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes until smooth. Spread the mixture evenly into a greased or non-stick 20 x 30cm lamington tin
Push the apricot halves, cut side up, evenly into the cake mixture in four rows of seven. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, sprinkle over extra sugar and cook for another 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Cut into fingers with two apricot halves per slice. Makes 14 slices. (Like I said, the apricots I used were quite large so I cut the slice into squares with one apricot half per slice.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

It's Raining Fruit!

Posted by MANDI at 9:37 PM 6 comments
A neighbour has dropped in a bucket load of fruit in the past couple of weeks, mostly apricots and peaches. There have been three or so deliveries so far and there is far too much fruit for our family to eat, even after I pass it on to my parents and whoever else we happen to see. Most of the fruit is very ripe so needs to be used fairly quickly so I've been scouring the cookbooks for interesting recipes.

I made some yummy apricot jam with the last lot. I've made jam before, both nectarine and strawberry, but never apricot and I was pleased with how it turned out. It was sweet but not cloyingly so, although it did set a little more solidly than was entirely necessary. I used some of it for the Thumbprint Cookies/Jam Drops. How impressive is that? Homemade right down to the jam filling!

We had another lot of fruit dropped in this afternoon and, as we have friends coming to play in the morning, I decided to try an Apricot Slice. It's still cooling on the bench so I'll have to let you know how it turned out in the morning but it sure does smell good. I was moaning to Hubby that it didn't look as good as the picture in the recipe book and he came back with,"Yeah, but I bet 9 out of 10 people would rather eat your slice than the picture in the book!" I must have looked at him blankly because then he added, "Because the picture's made of paper so only one person out of 10 would like that!" Then he fell about laughing. Because he's crazy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Nice Offer

Posted by MANDI at 9:27 PM 3 comments
The other night we'd finished dinner and were starting the bath/bed routine with the kids. They'd moved from the table to the couch to watch tv and I told them they had a couple of minutes before they had to hop in the bath and I'd sort out the dishes.
Mr "I'm 6 and very grown up" Offspring #1 came back with, "Mum? How about you hop in the bath and I'll sort the dishes?" Then he leant back on the couch in a terribly casual manner and snuck a look at me from under his lashes. I giggled at his comeback but cracked up laughing at the sneaky look.
That answered the question about his latest growth spurt that seemed to last forever - he ate everything in sight for a good couple of weeks but only grew a little bit taller. It would seem that his brain did most of the growing this time round!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

And The Beast Is Gone!

Posted by MANDI at 8:26 PM 3 comments
Hubby sold his car this week. You remember? The car that died a death that surprised no-one but him. Don't worry, he didn't do anything dodgy. His ad clearly stated that it had a blown head gasket and he also made sure he he told everyone who rang about the car.
The guy who bought it seems happy enough. He didn't want the engine anyway, he's rebuilding another car and plans to strip this one for parts. There was the obligatory haggling and everyone ended up happy - Hubby had some cash in his pocket and the buyer had a car that he can't drive.
I can't say I'm sad to see the back of that particular vehicle. And I'm pretty sure the neighbours are glad they don't have to hear it anymore!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Post 400!

Posted by MANDI at 9:05 PM 3 comments
Wow! I can't believe I have hit post number 400. I thought I should do something special for it but... well nothing very special has been happening. Then I had a thought. Maybe, just maybe, after a couple of weeks of leftovers, scratch meals and some tinned baked beans on toast... I could cook a proper dinner for my family. Yeah, they just about fell over with the shock of it too LOL.

I tried another recipe from Donna Hay's new book and it was a big hit. Honestly, I could have made this just as easily without the recipe but... I found the recipe so I used it! It was work-day easy to put together, tasted fantastic and will definitely be hitting our table again soon. Hubby and I particularly enjoyed the different textures - the rough crunchiness of the crumb topping and the smoothness of the baked chicken.

Crunchy Parmesan-Crumbed Chicken
From No Time To Cook by Donna Hay

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
30g butter, melted
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme leaves (from my herb garden!)
cracked black pepper
2 x 200g chicken breast fillets, trimmed and halved (so they're flat and thin, not fat and long)
lemon wedges and green salad to serve (left out the lemon and served a garden salad along with some deli-bought coleslaw)

Preheat oven to 200C. Combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan, butter, thyme and pepper. Place the chicken into a baking dish lined with non-stick baking paper. Top chicken with breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the crumbs are golden. Serve with salad, etc.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Quick Trip Away

Posted by MANDI at 12:14 PM 5 comments
Hubby had plans to play golf with his buddies from Red Dirt Central for last Friday. And when I found out that the game was being played in a town two hours from here, where a good friend of mine from Red Dirt Central hails from and had recently returned to live, I quickly decided that the kids and I should tag along and spend the day visiting. Upon checking that they would indeed be home we were promptly invited to arrive the day before and stay the night with R, J and their kids. We had a lovely night - the kids played, jumped on the trampoline, ran around under the sprinkler and eventually fell into their beds absolutely exhausted - while we caught up on all the news, partook of a few drinks together (or in the case of Hubby and J, a few more than a few drinks!) and enjoyed a very delicious bbq with all the trimmings.

Hubby headed off to golf the next morning while the kids and I visited a little longer before we too headed off to catch up with other friends. Our afternoon visit was to an old teaching friend of mine who Hubby and I worked with many, many years ago in Red Dirt Tiny Town. We hadn't seen each other since Offspring #2 was just a few months old, though we catch up here as well as through emails and Facebook, so it was really nice to sit and enjoy a cup of tea with her while all the kids played. Her kids are cute as buttons and went out of their way to make my kids feel welcome - so sweet just like their mum! It's kind of funny to think back on what we all got up to so many years ago and compare that to where we are today with kids and mortgages and the responsibilities that go along with each.
By late afternoon it was time to collect a rather 'tired'* Hubby (I'd already agreed to drive home so he was allowed to be a little 'weary' but he was rather more 'tired' than I'd anticipated!) from the golf course and start the journey home. He and Offspring #2 slept a good part of the trip and we arrived home a mere 28 hours after we'd left.
I managed to cart my camera along for the whole trip and didn't take a single photo (d'oh!) so no pics of beaches, or rivers or kids or anything at all!
tired* - code word for one who has a few beers while playing 18 holes of golf in 40C-odd temps and doesn't stop to eat lunch!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Three, Two, One...

Posted by MANDI at 8:53 AM 6 comments

We're off away for a couple of days. I hope you're enjoying your celebrations wherever you are.

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