Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mustardy chicken with pumpkin

Old favourites now! The roast pumpkin looks burnt in the picture, but really it's just nicely caramelised after being in the oven for about 1-1/2 hours at 180oC. The chicken breasts topped with chopped tomatoes and a sauce (white wine, garlic, mustard, lemon juice and a stock cube) were added in the last 45 minutes; I turned on the fan-forced option in my oven after adding the chicken. At the end I removed the sauce and thickened with some flour and butter.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Braised tofu

I was intending to make grilled tofu tonight, but I forgot to marinate. Instead I braised the tofu in its normal sauce (soy sauce, mirin, garlic, ginger, chopped spring onions, and sesame oil) and I think I prefer it this way: no advance preparation, and the end result is juicy, moist tofu with a strong salty-sweet flavour. Served with brown rice and stir-fried green beans and red capsicum. And we wolfed dessert down again before a picture was taken: canned apricots with vanilla custard.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Jam tarts

The kids made jam tarts from the puff pastry leftover from the quiches. Simply put jam into interesting three-dimensional shapes of puff pastry, and bake for 5-10 minutes at 220oC. Now why didn't the Glad Baking Paper Cookbook mention this as one of the ideal uses for its baking paper?

Pesto, red capsicum and feta quiches

I'm one of those tragic people who send off for free cookbooks advertised on the backs of food packages. Sometimes they're awful (for example, the Glad Baking Paper Cookbook was a real dud... an entire chapter on identical methods of roasting different vegetables... um... isn't that an obvious use for baking paper?). But my friend Kazza led me to a gem: the Pampas Puff Pastry cookbook 'Simply Pastry'. I've made these mini quiches several times; today I'm bringing them to a 40th birthday party. Daughter Anna was a good help and even took a Nigella-Lawson-esque photo of me licking my finger!

4 sheets puff pastry, thawed
4 eggs
1 cup cream
250 g feta cheese, crumbled
1 finely chopped red capsicum
2 tablespoons minced green onions
3 tablespoons pesto

Preheat oven to 220oC. Lightly oil two 12-cup muffin trays. Beat eggs and cream together with a whisk and season with pepper. Mix feta, capsicum and green onions.

Cut 9 cm rounds of puff pastry. Ease into muffin cups and prick with fork. Divide the pesto evenly between each case. Top with feta mixture, then pour egg mixture over the top.

Bake for 25 minutes. (In practice I bake both trays in the oven for 20 minutes. Then I take the top one out, move the lower one up higher in the oven, then bake an additional 5 minutes.)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday shopping

Fruit: apples, navel oranges, tiny sweet mandarins, and crimson seedless grapes.

Vegies: 1/2 red cabbage, 2 Jap pumpkins ($1.50 each and so sweet and flavourful!), carrots, green beans, Brussel sprouts, celery, spring onions, broccoli (finally less expensive!), lettuce, tomatoes.

A bargain at A$49 = US$37.

I also bought some dried adzuki beans, fine polenta (cornmeal, to make the cornbread I've been craving) and millet (inspired by the wide variety of grains in fauxcouture's diet).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pasta with eggplant & tomato sauce

Normally I make this in the slow cooker but I didn't get a chance to cook until after school. This is our favorite pasta sauce: 2 eggplants, 2 red capsicums, onion, garlic, a 400g can of tomatoes, and 600 mL pureed tomatoes (passata), along with an undisclosed amount (i.e. a big glug) of extra virgin olive oil. Cooked for a couple of hours on the stovetop, then served with bowtie pasta, parmesan cheese and a salad of baby rocket (arugula), grated carrot and chopped beetroot.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Roast chicken and pumpkin

Ooooh this was a yummy meal. I roasted a chicken a la Nigella Lawson: stuffed with two lemon halves and rosemary, rubbed with olive oil, and cooked for the first hour upside-down so all the juices trickle down and make the breast meat moist. Then you turn it right-side-up to brown the breast skin. I nestled slices of pumpkin (winter squash) around the chicken as it baked. Served with gravy and Brussel sprouts. And because everyone was lucky today, I also baked apples filled with butter, brown sugar and walnuts and swimming in an alcoholic apple cider bath (this bubbled down into a lovely cinnamon-y sauce). Served with vanilla custard.

Kids' lunch today

Recess: vanilla drinkable yogurt, half an apple
Lunch: Italian breadsticks (grissini), parmesan cheese cut in sticks (in same bag as grissini), a carrot, and a little container of almonds, dates and apricots.

Both kids ate everything, except for some of the nuts and dried fruit.

Tuna and brown rice

This clean-out-the-fridge-and-pantry dinner turned out better than I anticipated. I opened a can of Italian style tuna (i.e. packed in oil) and used a little of the oil to saute onion, Napa cabbage and carrots. Then I added the tuna and some frozen peas, and garlic (of course). Anna chopped up red capsicums, and I cooked long-grain brown rice in the rice cooker.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Dinner when we returned home

When we returned home I made the quickest thing I could think of : pesto pasta with green beans and peas. Eaten while watching our Sunday evening Fawlty Towers.

Weekend at the farm

We went to visit some friends who have a farm near Wellington, about 4 hours north of Canberra. It was a beautiful house, and our family lucked out and got the guest room with the handmade Italian glass tiles!!!!!!!! Some of our activities:

  • Thomas drove a small excavator (see his blog for more details)
  • Anna rode a pony, Cheeky
  • We all made a stone mosaic brick for the garden (see Anna's blog for more details)
  • We had a death-defying ride in an amphibious vehicle through the river
  • A huge bonfire
  • Lots of delicious meals in a gorgeous orange dining room, with 14 people around the table

Amazing, huh?!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Rice porridge

As a child, I was always the last person at the breakfast table and as a result I developed an aversion to porridge (oatmeal)-- cold and solidified by the time I arrived. Now that I'm often the first person awake in the house, I realise that the problem was entirely temperature, and along with my son, I have become quite enthusiastic about this winter treat. For two servings, I mix one cup each of milk, water and brown rice flakes. Add salt, cinnamon and raisins then cook until gloopy. Serve with brown sugar, chopped apple and more milk on top. Decidedly warm... and sticks to my broken rib (and my son's broken arm?)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Enormous pot of turnip soup

This soup was inspired by a pile of turnips at the produce markets last week. Hmmm, I've never bought a turnip... I'll make soup! This meal worked well for working day today. Last night I enlisted my daughter to help chop potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, celery and the beautifully purple-tipped turnip. This morning I added a can of tomatoes, several beef stock cubes, about 200 g stewing beef and 1/2 cup barley. About 2 litres of boiling water from the kettle were poured over and the slow cooker (crockpot) was set to low. After 10 hours of cooking, the texture and flavor was superb. Served with a green salad and toast.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Inadvertent success

I thought this grain was going to go over like the clumpy porridge-y dud it was... but it won rave reviews from the offspring, go figure. I blame Vegan Planet -- for both the failure and inadvertent success, I suppose. They claimed that both brown rice and millet require a ratio of 2:1 grain:water with 30 minutes cooking time. Or not: millet was mushy, rice was crunchy. Ah well. Pretend it's really cous-cous and make jokes about kiss-kisses. Serve with corn on the cob and stir-fried carrots and cabbage.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Laundry day

I love those teatowel sets which are embroidered with the days of the week and the specified job the happy housemaker is meant to be doing:
  • Monday: washing
  • Tuesday: ironing
  • Wednesday: sewing
  • Thursday: cleaning
  • Friday: shopping
  • Saturday: baking

Makes you tired just looking at the list, doesn't it?

In a spasm of happy home-making I decided to call Monday my laundry day this year: instead of doing one load of wash a day, I do many on one day. And as embarrassed as I am about such organization (which also includes a recent alphabetization of my spices!), I do find it efficient and somehow enjoyable to devote a day to be at home, finding many other things to do between the loads. It also lends a holiday air to the other days of the week (woo-hoo, no laundry!).

In the spirit of Monday wash-day -- when housewives used to put a pot of beans on the fire while they hand-scrubbed at the stream -- I made slow-cooked chickpeas in BBQ sauce today. I soaked the chickpeas overnight, then cooked for 4 hours in the slow cooker on high (they could have done with less initial cooking but I broke the rules and left the house for a couple of hours). Then I drained the chickpeas, and added pureed tomatoes, a dab of mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, brown vinegar, and sauteed onions, red capsicums and lotsa garlic. A couple more hours in the slow-cooker, and the result was a rich BBQ flavor. Served with rice, plain yogurt, and steamed carrots and broccoli.

A present from my mother

And while we're taking about mothers... my Mom made this beautiful stained glass hanging for my window. As I cook and chop in the kitchen, my eye is drawn over and over again to this spot, because it is sunny and is the focal point when you're standing behind the kitchen counter. Now I am reminded of my mother every time, and how creative and generous and talented she is!

A walk on Mother's day

We walked to the top of the small baby mountain in the reserve behind our house. Daughter was in charge of photographs.

Mother's day breakfast

Oh yum, my husband made me a cooked breakfast for Mother's day: fried eggs, ham, mushrooms, tomatoes, and hash browns with toast. I especially was thrilled about the hash browns!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Green beans and khichri

Would you believe the sauce for these Indian green beans has TEN cloves of garlic? I'm hoping this dinner will strengthen our immune system to fight the cold and flu viruses flying around. Puree 2 T fresh ginger with 10 cloves of garlic and a little water. Saute for 2 minutes, then add 2 teas cumin, 2 teas ground coriander and 2 chopped tomatoes, and saute further. Add 500g green beans, 1 c water and salt. Simmer on low until tender. Remove cover, and add 1 T lemon juice and ground pepper, and boil away most of the liquid.

I also made khichri, which is a ancient peasant food of rice and lentils. I soaked 1/3 c red lentils for 3 hours. These were drained and added to a rice cooker along with 2 c basmati rice, 2 2/3 c water, 1 teas salt, 1/2 teas garam masala and a bunch of coriander, chopped. Let the rice cooker do the magic, and out comes an earthy simple rice.

Alongside I grated some cucumbers into yogurt, spiced with cumin, pepper and salt.

Verdict: a simple satisfying meal. My son loved the green beans which pleased me to no end... I wasn't sure if he would like all the spices (though I didn't put any chilli in, as Madhur Jaffrey's recipe called for).


As a child, I scrupulously watched to make sure my mother would divide the Kraft macaroni and cheese equally. As a college student, I would revel in eating the whole box myself... and I still am partial to the glow-in-the-dark-orange variety which retails for 29c. I remember being surprised when I arrived for a babysitting job as a teenager, and the rather arty and wholesome mother was actually making mac-n-cheese from scratch: what's the point of all that extra work? But now that I am a perhaps too earnestly wholesome mother, I find myself making a cheesy white sauce as well, and I do think there is a point... it is delicious. This is my comfort food, and my son's firm favourite.

For a 500g bag of pasta, make a white sauce with 3T butter and flour, a little onion and garlic, mustard for extra zing, and 3 cups whole milk (heated up in microwave before adding, to speed cooking). Then sundry and forgotten bits of cheese are stirred in to melt; here, gouda and grated Parmesan. Best served when husband is at a rugby game, to avoid being called a corn-fed Nebraskan dairy princess.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


I had to take a picture of my husband's non-trifling serve of trifle. For those of you not familiar with this English dessert, it consists of pound cake, jello (here both red and green), custard (vanilla pudding) and whipped cream. Um, Peter likes it.

My date to see Brokeback Mountain

Hamburger helper

Dinner at my childhood friend Anne's house was generally a hamburger casserole with a sour cream sauce and five bowls of different vegetables in a white sauce (you might guess she lived on a dairy farm). Was I subconsciously trying to recreate that experience for dinner tonight?

On this first cold day of winter, my vision was a plate of Swedish meatballs with plenty of sauce for mashed potatoes. I don't believe, however, that Anne's mother would have put leftover millet and Tuscan eggplant tapenade in her meatballs, but in a fridge-cleaning-out effort I did, and they were superb. I browned the meatballs, cooked in beef stock and then thickened with flour and water. I sauteed the sundry leftover bits of green vegetables to serve on the side. Very delicious... and then I realized I had just made homemade Hamburger Helper!

Daughter's favorite lunchbox EVER

My daughter informs me this is sheer perfection in the category Lunchboxes. Plain rice biscuits (savory crackers), sliced cheese, carrot sticks and a juice box. The juice is a special treat as I usually try to minimise excess packaging. As you can see by my voluminous collection of little plastic containers (I'm beginning to become obsessed!).

Breakfast for the girls

This is my favorite breakfast, and sometimes my daughter doesn't mind being like her mother (how long will that last?). Chopped apple, plain unsweetened yogurt, muesli (unbaked granola), chopped Brazil nuts (for the selenium which is important for the thyroid), and honey drizzled on top.

I'm baaaaack

Hello again... apologies to my two readers for my absence... can I blame the broken rib? But I'm back again.