Friday, June 30, 2006

Pumpkin risotto

So I started with a whole Jap pumpkin last week. I used half for the roast chicken dinner; a quarter for the chicken noodle soup; and eeeek I still have a quarter left which I used to make this risotto. Oh man I love this cookbook... checked out for the second time from the library which is usually a hint I should buy it for myself. This is the same cookbook where I got the recipe for beans and rice which worked perfectly. And here, this pumpkin risotto worked perfectly and was easy. I sauteed a chopped onion in the rice cooker for 2 minutes, then cooked the Arborio rice for about 4 minutes. Then I dumped in the stock (water + a cube) and chopped pumpkin, set the timer for 20 minutes (it won't turn off because risottos are more liquid), and ouila, after a quick stir, risotto!! It was delicious -- the pumpkin melted and formed an oozy orange starchy liquid to bind the rice. Perhaps not your perfect, stand-and-stir-at-the-stove-for-30-minutes risotto, but quietly, I've never been able to tell the difference between the dumping and stirring varieties. I topped it with Parmesan cheese last night, but today at lunch I'd run out of cheese and it was good with chopped avocado instead.

OK, I'm sick of pumpkin now.

Chicken noodle soup

Everyone (except for me) is sick this week... really sick with a flu virus. I battled it with lots of sleep, citrus, liquids, and Ease-a-Cold (preventative tablets with Zinc, vitamin C and echinacea)... and I was only mildly tired and chilled. Whereas the rest of the family has had terrible fevers, pains, chills, sore throats. So I'm lucky. Except I'm sick of everyone else groaning. Ooops you've discovered my secret: I'm a Bad Mother. I have no patience when others are sick. Sigh. But hey I made them chicken noodle soup! And jello!

I'd been saving leftover chicken carcasses in the freezer for a while and used them to make a very rich broth (as per Betty Crocker, I discard the initial vegies used to make the broth, then add lots more fresh ones later). I'd read a medical journal article PROVING that chicken noodle soup improves the immune system, and their recipe had sweet potato and pumpkin in it (probably the vitamin A is great for the immune system). So in addition to the other vegies of potato, onion, lotsa garlic, carrots and celery, I added a quarter of a Jap pumpkin. I let it cook until the pumpkin completely disintegrated, making the stock a lurid orange-y yellow with a lovely sweet flavour.

Homemade muesli

I'm cleaning and organising my pantry right now and decided to make some homemade muesli with bits and pieces which I've discovered. And of course Anna is my #1 helper. She chopped up dried apricots and dates and mixed with the rest of the ingredients: oat and barley flakes, oat bran straws, linseed-sunflower-almond meal, coconut, and a generous pile of almonds whizzed in the food processor into big chunks. Quite delicious. I've come around to my spartan husband's ways and prefer the muesli untoasted. Usually they add more fat and sugar when they toast (bake) the muesli anyway.

Leftover shepherd's pie

Peter made this shepherd's pie, based very loosely on a Nigella recipe, and out of leftovers from the roast pork dinner. He chopped up the roast pork and mixed with some extra vegies and canned tomatoes, then topped with roast potatoes on one side, and roast pumpkin on the other side. It was pretty good... especially the roast potato side.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Roast pork

I had a friend come play with me after school; she conveniently has a son and daughter matching my own, so the kids were happy too. I needed something for dinner which I could just toss into the oven so I could get on with the chin-wagging. And in my local shops I spied this pork roast pre-marinated with mustard and sun-dried tomatoes. Well it was easy -- just a toss into the oven indeed -- but I personally didn't like the flavourings and tenderizers, eeew. It tasted fake and chemical to me. But everyone else liked it. Served with roast potatoes and a salad with lettuce, tomatoes and red capsicum.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Baked beans and vegies

A midweek meal: can of baked beans heated with leftover lamb roast; toast; steamed broccoli and carrots; mushrooms sauteed with spring onions and garlic; and raw red capsicum. Am I going a little overboard this week with lots of little bowls of different vegetables?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mexican beans and rice

This one-dish meal is from The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook, which I've gotten from the library again -- it's so good I might have to buy it for myself. Add 1 cup rice and 1 cup stock to the rice cooker and start the cook cycle. Then saute chopped red capsicum, spring onions and garlic, then tip it into the rice cooker along with a drained can of beans, a can of chopped tomatoes and spices (oregano and cumin and chili powder). I wish I would have had tortillas to wrap around the rice, but instead the kids put it inside taco shells and the adults just ate it plain. Served with chopped lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and avocadoes; yogurt; and chilli sauce for the oldies. Coriander would have been good too.

I often serve lots of little bowls of vegies for the kids to choose from -- they seem to eat more if there's a variety and they can choose the amount. My son's friend who came for dinner the other night was amazed that there was an entire bowl of carrot sticks on the table. His father said they always put a serving on their kids' plates instead of the kids serving themselves and the novelty factor was pretty exciting for him: woo-hoo!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Rice heart and flower

Upon my request, DH brought these rice molds home from Japan. I don't think you're officially meant to use sushi rice (just plain leftover rice) but that's what I have tonight. I mixed in the leftover salmon, rinsed the molds with cold water, and Anna compressed them to make delicious, dense rice "balls" that hold together and are easy to eat for kids. They will be morning tea for the kids' lunch box tomorrow.

I've got a great cookbook with every imagineable rice ball recipe... one of DH's colleagues sent it to me. I've made rice balls with chopped and shredded vegetables (carrot, capsicum and cucumber); salmon or tuna; or leftover teriyaki chicken. I would like to try some more recipes sometime.

Make your own sushi

This dinner was very popular with my sushi-train-lovin' kids. And really -- other than chopping vegetables -- it's not too much work if you've got the key ingredients, especially with a rice cooker. (Of course I'm not doing all the fancy fanning of rice in a wooden bowl but never mind.) I cooked 2 cups sushi rice + 3 cups water in the rice cooker. Meanwhile, I heated 4 Tablespoons rice vinegar with 3 Tablespoons sugar in the microwave (I warned you this wasn't traditional) then mixed that in with the rice in a flat bowl, and covered this with a teatowel until dinner time.

Along with the rice I served salmon (from a can); quartered nori (seaweed); chopped cucumber, red capsicum, avocado and pickled daikon radish; wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger. It was delicious!! We all had our unique style. I prefered "scattered" sushi: a big gemisch of everything on top of rice (I don't like to eat too much seaweed because of my sensitivity to iodine). DH and daughter made rolls. Son (don't tell anyone) preferred to eat everything, including rice, with his fingers. Oh well.

Monday breakfast

We had a baked dinner yesterday (leg of lamb with roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes, cauliflower with cheese sauce, and Brussel sprouts). For breakfast I fried the potatoes and sweet potatoes first along with some eggs; garnished with toast and sliced baby Roma tomatoes. Mmmm-mmm.

Pre-disco dinner

Believe it or not kids at primary school in Canberra have disco dances! It's not a boy-girl thing... the police use it as a community event where they meet the kids at each school and prove that even policemen can do the chicken dance. For kindergarten to year 3, the disco is from 5 to 6:30 pm. Amazingly, my son spent the entire time with his mates dancing at the front of the stage!!! I fed the kids before we went: macaroni and cheese, peas and carrot sticks.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tuna and broccoli pasta

Wednesday night dinner was spiral pasta with tuna, capers, broccoli, garlic and spring onions, with Parmesan cheese on top. Same salad as last night, but no dessert. Anna didn't like this pasta because everything was all mixed up -- she would have eaten all the separate parts though, ah the logic is flawed is it not?! She ate mostly salad, cheese and pasta which didn't have bits clinging to it.

Soup from the freezer

Tuesday dinner was beef, barley and vegetable soup (frozen from a couple weeks ago) and a salad (lettuce, mint, sprouts and cherry tomatoes). Baked pears with cinnamon yogurt for dessert (somehow we are always in too much of a rush to eat dessert to actually take a photo!)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I have to pretend this is not in the fridge

This is very addictive. I have been looking for a recipe for a sweet, seedy, nutty, granola/muesli bar and found this one on (recipe #115073). There is too much butter in it for my husband's taste, and I agree to a certain extent, mostly from a theoretical viewpoint mind you. haha. It ends up tasting much like caramel popcorn.

Dry ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup LSA mix (ground linseeds, sunflower seeds and almonds)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup raisins

Wet ingredients:
125 g (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar

Line a 16 x 28 cm (7" x 11") pan with baking paper.

Combine dry ingredients in a big bowl.

Cook butter, honey and sugar over medium heat, stirring for 3-4 min until sugar dissolves. Reduce to low and simmer without stirring for 7 minutes.

Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Press firmly into pan. Set for a few hours in fridge.

Roast chicken and potatoes

I'm becoming Nigella Lawson. I only cook chickens the way she does now (with a lemon and rosemary inside, and upside-down so the juices -- read fat -- keep the breast meat moist) and tonight I even put two in at a time as she does... one for our putative picnic tomorrow (it's quite cold and rainy for a picnic!) and one for dinner.

Oh dear do I have to have parallel construction in this post and start this paragraph with "I'm becoming my mother?!" Ahh, ignore that thought like all daughters must. Anyway, I overcame my gravy fears with my mother at the stove 2 years ago. She said, it doesn't matter, just heat up the drippings with some liquid (the water potatoes were cooked in or stock), and add some flour shaken with water in a jar and it will work. And it works... not only when she is standing next to me!!! So tonight I am proud of two things: my gravy which still works despite an occasional flicker of concern at the aforementioned stove, and come on, you have to admit, those are perfectly golden-roasted potatoes.

Pancakes for breakfast

A highly sought after commodity in our household: weekend pancakes. I top these 100% whole-wheat flour jobbies with yogurt and fruit... here, canned pears. But everyone else in the family are sugar fans; elaborate alternating layers of jam and maple syrup is the current fashion.

Roast pork a la Wayne County Fair

Two meals here. The first day, I cooked a pork loin roast all day in the slow cooker in a sauce of balsamic vinegar, honey and Dijon mustard. The meat was delicious but the sauce was slightly odd, perhaps too much vinegar, but still tasty. Served with sweet potatoes and apples fried in butter, oh because they are delicious that way.

Then I realised I had made pork BBQ very similar to that served at the community BBQ at the Wayne County Fair in Nebraska, and I simply had to serve it in a soft white roll... even better then next day! The fair was always at the end of summer, and it was the first time that we would see our school friends -- other than our neighbors and especially good friends -- after a summer of travelling and swimming and bike riding. I remember waiting in the very long line and shyly saying hi to my tanned and taller schoolmates and wondering how the coming school year would go. Of course every single person in Wayne (and their family) came for the BBQ ... pork buried in a pit for days... disintegrated and soft and sweet-BBQ-sauced on a white roll.

Peter's dinner

Peter (DH) often cooks something along these lines, inspired by a Spanish potato omelette. Here in addition to egg and potato he added red cabbage, carrots and green peas, with cheese on top, and steamed broccoli and toast on the side.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Spag bol

Spaghetti bolognaise made with a jar of tomato sauce and minced beef, and supplemented with a carrot, red capsicum and stick of celery (I am obsessed with sneaking extra vegetables into everything-- they are so good for you). Served with a green salad -- a pleasing mixture of rocket (arugula), mint and cucumber -- and Parmesan cheese.

For dessert I made one of my favourites from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat: baked pears. I love this cookbook... it's not so much recipes as written down notes of those things you make at home regularly without a recipe. Indeed, in Nigella's style, I currently just remember the idea of this dish and then experiment with the ingredients I have at hand. Tonight I had 7 Buerre Bosc pears, some leftover too-sweet wine and the juice from the canned apricots. Into a covered casserole dish they went, with some cinnamon and honey, and after an hour at 180C they were luscious. Even more so with some ice cream. The fragrant sauce is divinely spiced. Initially I was going to serve this as dessert for our Saturday dinner party (before DH stepped into the kitchen!) and I had the idea that the King Island cinnamon yogurt would work perfectly with it. Next time!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Fruit bowls

Anna took this photo of our fruit bowls for the week, replenished by a trip to the markets on Friday. I miss bananas! After a hurricane which wiped out 90% of all banana plantations in Queensland, they are currently in such short supply that they are priced at A$15 = US$11 / kg (2 lbs) !!!!

Dinner party

Menu for dinner party on Saturday night:

Roasted red capsicum filled with coriander rice and topped with a lemony, minty yogurt sauce
Green beans with a touch of butter and lemon rind (my personal favourite dish)
Marinated mushrooms (lots of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and spring onions)
Carrot salad (with dried and fresh coriander, lemon juice and a titch of oil)

Dear husband (DH) outdid himself dessert-wise: a chocolate-raspberry tart in a coconut-macaroon crust, served with vanilla ice cream and cinnamon King Island yogurt.

As you can see from the photos, our guest gave everything the thumbs-up. The one thumbs-down is to represent the Heart Foundation's likely stance on the dessert.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pumpkin-y lentil soup

OK, maybe I am getting tired of the vast wall of orange pumpkin flesh in my pantry (three dolla! three dolla!). But in this soup, the pumpkin was reasonably disguised by the lentils, red capsicum, curry paste and coconut milk (185 mL). Served with a dollop (?) of brown rice and Brussel sprouts on the side. The kids had canned apricots and wildberry drinkable yogurt for dessert.

Meat and potatoes

Pork chops on the BBQ with a salad and roast potatoes. I make the potatoes a la my in-laws: peeled and microwaved for 8 minutes with a little water to pre-cook; then tossed in olive oil and browned in a 180C oven for 30 minutes.