Monday, June 29, 2009

My Kind of Aromatherapy

This is what I have been waiting for all day. The weather has been cold, wet and wild. I knew that once the kids were in bed that I would have the house to myself and I can't think of any better way of enjoying a cold evening alone than this

From Food

With mince pies, goes mulled wine. Don't fight it.
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 60m l (4 tablespoons) dark rum
  • 125m l Earl Grey tea
  • 1 tablespoon dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 orange, quartered, each quarter stuck with 1 clove
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Directions:
    Put all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring almost to the boil, but before the aromatic wine actually boils, turn down to the lowest possible heat and keep it warm as you ladle it into any nearby glass.

    If you need to make mulled wine that isn't really mulled wine because you have to provide drink that's non-alcoholic (as I had to do for the Christmas fair at my daughter's school last year) then you can substitute a bottle of red grape juice for the wine, half a bottle of rum flavouring (I'm sorry) for the rum.
    Nigella Lawson

    Today, no rum in the cupboard so I substituted Brandy. And I tell you what if this recipe can make a cheapy red taste this good, just imagine how superb with a good one.

    I am an Aussie through and through, and have never had anything but a summer Christmas but can I just say that the aromatics are so heady and my house smells incredibly festive.

    Fa la la la laaaah la la la laaah

    Sleeping Beauties

    Poor little girl. She's sporting a nasty cold, didn't get much sleep last night and her mean Mum dragged her into work for a boring, grown up meeting. It all got a bit too much, and after constant nagging, badgering and whining didn't work she had to resort to a full sobbing tantrum to get her Mum to leave.

    On the 10 minute drive home, the sobbing started again because "It's just so far to our home!"

    Much distress then when Mum had to stop at the supermarket to pick up a couple of things for dinner. But on the promise of a new lip gloss happiness was restored - ever so briefly.

    After much debate, Mum finally agrees to buy the three pack of lip gloss just to keep the peace and onward we trek to collect the rest of the groceries. Due to extreme weather (and monthly!) conditions, mum is in dire need of some chocolate comfort and so the lolly aisle is visited. At which point DD3 decides lip gloss is not going to cut it and goes for lollies instead.

    "So we will put the lip gloss back then?"

    "Yes, I want a lolly"

    Brilliant! Three pack of lip gloss $10, Hello Kitty novelty candy $2.95. What a coup! And happy little girl to boot.

    We drive into the garage, which happens to be the exact point at which she is finishing candy.

    "Did you remember my lipstick Mum?"

    "We got a lolly instead remember?"

    *POUT*, *throw hello kitty on floor of car*, *dissolve into tears of hopelessness*.

    Mum carries her to bed amid screams of frustration and fury.

    The storm outside is brewing also and I decide to bring the animals in. The leg-lifter goes to the garage. And the other one? Well here is my chance for a little peace and quiet. I let her into the storm inside. Open the bedroom door. *Jump**LICK*KISS*The crying stops.

    "Can puppy sleep on your bed? She's cold and scared from the storm. Will you look after her?"

    A little smile creeps onto her blotchy tear-streaked face.

    "OK Mum"

    And in a few moments . . . this . . . .
    From Life

    What she doesn't know is that the lip glosses did make it into the shopping basket. To use as leverage for when we have to do it all again on Wednesday :)

    Friday, June 26, 2009

    You won't believe how good these are . . .

    I was introduced to these amazing little treats when we held a scrapbooking night at our home last Christmas. Kayleen brought these along and was inundated with requests for the recipe. So thanks for sharing Kayleen :)

    BEWARE: One is not enough - in fact, consider making a double batch, you won't believe how good they are!
    From Food
    Christmas Pecan Tarts

    • 1 package Pampas Sweet Pastry Shells
    • ¾ cup pecans, chopped
    • ¼ cup brown sugar
    • 2 teaspoons plain flour
    • ½ cup maple syrup
    • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 egg

    • Directions:
      Preheat the oven to 180°C fan forced 170°C.
      Spread pecans on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
      In the bowl of an electric mixer place eggs, syrup, sugar and butter and flour. Beat gently until well combined. Stir in pecans.
      Place pastry cases onto a large baking tray.
      Spoon 1 tablespoon of the mixture into each pastry case.
      Bake in a slow oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

      As with any baking, the quality of the ingredients makes a big difference to the outcome here. I use best quality (real) maple syrup, and dark muscavado sugar.

      Wednesday, June 24, 2009

      More Scrapping!

      Now don't faint, but I have now completed three LO's in two days - and let me just say that judging by the state of my house, it sure looks like it. Anyway, time to share:

      From Scrapping Stuff

      Love at first sight

      This one is for the sketch challenge on Roadmaps. Had a great time doing a boy page. It's been a while :)

      {15} Years . . . and still having fun

      This one is for White With 1. This month's challenge was white with red + brackets.

      These challenge sites really are a great way to get the creative juices flowing. It's been a long time since I have been this inspired. What fun!!!!

      Just a quickie post today. Really should go and make an effort with the house b4 school pick up.

      Thanks for looking!

      Tuesday, June 23, 2009

      Scrappin' Again

      Here is a LO I just completed (a little at Tuesday Club - a little at home LOL). This one is for the Aussie Scrap Jacked challange site. A great idea to "scrapjack" a LO from a scrapbookers blog and use it as inspiration for others.

      Lil Princess

      I'm really happy with how it turned out. Loving bright colours atm too - the more colour the better :)

      Thanks for looking

      Saturday, June 20, 2009

      Rainy Saturday

      We had a lovely rainy Saturday in today. I decided to get out the scrapping gear to finish my Stamped Images Swap transparencies for Scrappin' Bitz and of course the kids wanted to join in.

      Though DS5 dug this book out
      From Life
      and started to hunt for activities he could do. DD3 was quite content to scrap - until I reluctantly agreed to make up some Salt Dough. The good thing about this dough is that it can be made up from ingredients that are lurking in most pantries. Plus it is 4 activities in one:
      • Mixing
      • Modelling
      • Cooking
      • Painting
      This was a lot of fun to make, and dead easy too. Here is the recipe:

      • 300g Plain Flour
      • 300g Salt
      • 200ml Water
      • 2 tspns Oil
      Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl with your hands until it comes together into a ball. Roll it out and start cutting!
      Place shapes on a baking sheet and cook in a moderate oven for around 20 minutes (fatter shapes may take longer).
      When the baked dough has cooled, decorate with poster or acrylic paint. Try mixing about 1 part PVA glue to 2 parts paint for a tough and shiny finish.

      I have managed to stretch this out to include an activity for tomorrow if it's still rainy, but I am sure that rain hail or shine, I will be made to get the paints out and finish what I have started :)

      So here are the results of our efforts today
      From Life
      DS5 Potato Dog and Owner
      (you can't see it in this pic, but the owner's T-shirt is adorned with a picture of potato dog)

      From Life
      DD3 Scrapbook Page
      (for Nana)

      From Scrapping Stuff

      And my effort, acetate image sheet x 9! Yes 9!
      It is not an experience I am willing to relive again in a hurry. That said, I am really looking forward to what I will receive from the lovely 8 ladies participating in the swap.

      Oh, and the Salt Dough? Well this is where we are at
      From Life
      until I am coerced into painting tomorrow. Eeeek, what have I got myself into?

      Friday, June 19, 2009

      Martha . . . Meet Nigella

      From Food
      What do you do on a stormy Friday morning when you are entertaining two little girls? Why bake of course.

      So here is what we made today. Martha Stewart's White Cupcake recipe, with Nigella's Royal Icing:

      • 3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
      • 2 teaspoons baking powder
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
      • 2 ¼ cups sugar
      • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
      • 1 cup milk
      • 8 large egg whites

      • Directions:
        Preheat oven to 170℃. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners; set aside.
        In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

        In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.

        In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 minutes. Do not overbeat. Gently fold 1/3 of the egg-white mixture into the butter-flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture.

        Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each with a heaping 1/4 cup batter. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the cupcakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack. Invert cupcakes onto rack; then reinvert and let cool completely, top sides up.

        I know these seem complicated and fiddly compared to other cupcake recipes, but they are oh so worth it! You have never tasted a more moist cupcake that is buttery, light and sweet all at the same time!

        From Food

        • 2 large egg whites
        • 3 cups pure icing sugar
        • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

        • Directions:
          Combine the egg whites and confectioners' sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on medium speed until opaque and shiny, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the lemon juice, this will thin out the icing. Beat for another couple of minutes until you reach the right spreading consistency for the cupcakes.

          But of course it wouldn't have been the same without my little helper

          From Life

          From Life

          From Life
          Now - the dishes, Yuck!

          Thursday, June 18, 2009

          Great Day!

          I've had one of those days today where I feel really satisfied that I have used every minute available to me. Here's how it went (condensed version):
          • Drop DS to school
          • Drive 15 Kms to take DH his lunch (it's OK, I was going in to town anyway)
          • Return 15 down lights to Bunnings for refund
          • Pick up reinker for stamp pad needed to complete Scrappin' Bitz swap
          • Get flat packed storage units for kids rooms from Howards (my new favourite store!)
          • Buy correct lights from specialist lighting store
          • Now home!
          • Remove 11 tiny twinkler down lights from home theatre 32 course ceiling using only dodgy kitchen step (not recommended!)
          • Install 11 new tiny twinkler lights using only dodgy kitchen step - btw DO NOT TOUCH THE GLASS in case they blow up when you flick the switch!
          • Now replace odd globes in remainder of house seeing as the dodgy step is in use anyway :)
          • Remove shelf from kitchen cabinet recess to allow very sexy new bin from Howards to slide right in.
          • Now, flat packed storage unit assembly . . . hmmmmm . . . have hammer, will hit stuff! Times 2.
          • Mmm . . . rest of kids rooms now need organising to match lovely new units. Ditch, keep, vaccuum . . .
          • Better eat some lunch. Leftovers again?!
          • Now stuff 50 envelopes with payslips, timesheets and newsletters. Coach 3yo DD on finer points of applying postage stamps :)
          • Post said letters
          • Lovely new car interior is looking very shabby with bits of food, crumbs, sand and grass, shoes, clothing, fast food packaging. Time for a detail. Ditch, vacuum, windows - good!
          • Have a look at rest of house - Total disaster! Sweep, wipe, spray, wash - nice!
          • Welcome home 5yo DS who has enjoyed a play over at a mate's house since being picked up by said mate's mum after school.
          • Chat to lovely mum of mate for far too long - women! We just don't know when to stop gas-bagging!
          • Dinner - Megs' delicious Slow Cooked Balinese Beef. YUM!
          • Bath Kids, put kids to bed.
          • Blog-a-long while waiting for DH to return (hopefully victorious) from mixed netball.
          • Phew!!!!!
          Now, before I start sounding like a self-righteous twat, I suspect that the real reason I have done all this is actually to avoid this

          From Life

          Wednesday, June 17, 2009

          Room For Dessert?

          From Food

          The original recipe is from Donna Hay Modern Classics:2. I have tweaked a little, see what you think. Perfect for cold winter nights.
          RICE PUDDING (made with leftover rice)


          • 1 cup full cream whole milk

          • ½ cup double cream

          • 2 eggs

          • 2 egg yolks, extra

          • ½ cup caster sugar

          • ¾ teaspoons vanilla bean paste

          • 1 cup cooked rice, separated with a fork

          • 2 tablespoons sultanas

          1.Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celsius.
          2.Place the milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat and heat until hot but not boiling.
          3.Place the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until well combined. slowly pour over the hot milk mixture, whisking well to combine.
          4.Grease a 2 litre capacity pudding basin/casserole dish. Spread rice and sultanas evenly in the base of the dish.
          5.Pour the mixture into the dish through a strainer.
          6.Place in a baking tray and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the side of the dish.
          7.Bake for 50 minutes or until just set. serve warm or cold

          (Serves 4)

          If you are not keen on the slightly grainy texture that you get from vanilla been paste, you can substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

          Quite right Vikki

          As my good friend Vikki so astutely pointed out, I did say in my last post that I had two killer Leftover recipes to share, and only ended up posting one. I had a bit of a fight with Blogger last night and I am sorry to say that blogger won!

          So here is what we had for dinner last night with $4 chips from the local chippy and some steamed veg. See; it's not all glamour and five star dining around here LOL.

          BOLOGNESE PINWHEELS (made with leftover Bolognese sauce)
          Think of these as a variation on Beef Wellingtons, only way tastier.

          • 2 cups  Bolognese sauce, cooled, not too watery
          • 2 sheets store bought puff pastry, room temperature
          • 1 egg
          • 1 tablespoon water
          • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
          • Directions:
            1.Preheat oven to 180℃
            2.Whisk together egg and water in a small bowl
            3.Brush pasty sheets lightly with egg wash (this provides a moisture barrier)
            4.Spread half of the Bolognese sauce on one sheet of pastry, leaving a 2cm strip of pastry free of sauce along all sides. Sprinkle over half the parmesan.
            5.Roll the pastry away from you just about 5cm, then fold in the sides about 2cm and continue rolling to the end.
            6.Repeat steps 2 - 5 for second sheet of pastry and remaining ingredients.
            7.Place the rolls seam side down on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, brush with egg wash and bake for 30min or until golden brown.
            8.Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before slicing into pinwheels about 5cm thick.

            (Serves 6)

            Perhaps not everone's cup of tea for a main meal but if your kids will eat them cold why not try them as an alternative to a sandwich in their lunch box?

            Thanks to my Cooking Club buddy Megs for the inspiration for this recipe.

            One more "leftover" recipe to follow

            Tuesday, June 16, 2009

            Anyone for Leftovers?

            The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found." [Calvin Trillin]

            Do you ever have that inner struggle? You know the one "I've made too much of this or that . . . I know I shouldn't throw it out . . . but what on earth can I do with it?"
            In this day and age it's certainly in every Domestic Goddess' interest to be as thrifty as possible. So here are two ideas I have stumbled across that are super delicious and with a couple of key ingredients hiding in the pantry you can pull them off at a moment's notice.
            From Food

            (Made with Leftover Mashed Potato)

            • 500 g cold mashed potato

            • 418 g tinned salmon, preferably organic

            • pinch cayenne pepper

            • grated zest of 1/2 lemon

            • salt and pepper

            • 1 egg

            • for coating and frying:

            • 2 eggs

            • 100 g fresh bread crumbs

            • 50 g unsalted butter

            • 2 tablespoons Welly Boot Extra Virgin Olive Oil

            1.In a large bowl, and preferably with your hands, mix together all the fishcake ingredients.
            2.Cover a baking sheet with clingfilm, plunge your hands back into the mixture and form fat, palm-sized patties. Place these on the baking sheet and stand in the fridge to firm up for about 20 minutes to an hour – or considerably longer if that helps.
            3.Beat the eggs in a shallow soup bowl and sprinkle the bread crumbs onto a dinner plate. One by one, dip the fishcakes into the beaten egg and then into the bread crumbs, sprinkling and dredging over as you go to help coat them. When you’re all done, put the butter and oil in a large frying pan, heat till it begins to fizzle and then fry the fishcakes on each side until the crusts are golden, and speckled brown in parts, and the soothing centres are warmed through.

            (Serves 3)

            I use tinned salmon here because I think, strangely enough, that’s how they taste best (if it’s good enough for Marguerite Costa, it’s good enough for me) and it means you can have the wherewithal for these about the place at all times. I do have to warn, though, that, the unfried mixture smells absolutely vile. Just hold on to the thought that, once cooked, it tastes wonderful.


            Wednesday, June 10, 2009

            Well wotta-ya-know? Toot-Toot!

            Isn't it funny what happens when you take a break from scrapping? I had been feeling thoroughly uninspired for maybe six months. And with literally the first layout I did when my mojo came back this is what happens.

            Please do pardon me for tooting, I just think it's funny!

            Tuesday, June 9, 2009

            Check this out

            Oh Wow! I'm in heaven. Darling Hubby Dave has just found this amazing Application for our Mac. It's called **Mac Gourmet and it's like the Apple programmers went into my head and found all the things I wanted in a recipe organiser - and some features I didn't know I needed :)

            I mean imagine, clicking on the recipes you want to cook for the week and a shopping list being generated automatically for you. And it knows what's in your pantry already, so you won't double up!

            I am seriously excited about this people . . . now if I could just find the time to learn to use it properly LOL

            ** That's Mac as in Apple, not Ronald MacDonald!

            Monday, June 1, 2009

            Morning Coffee

            It's not just about the coffee, it's about the ritual. All the little parts that go in to making the perfect cup. 

            First, warming the cup and filter basket. Then drying the basket and tamping in just the right amount of the pure dark grounds. There is the moment of anticipation as the glorious drizzle of golden elixir hits the cup and the heady aroma that follows. The unmistakable sound as steam meets cold milk and the magic of that pairing creating the hot, thick, foamy liquid. Then the pouring - a touch of foam first to protect the precious crema, then slowly filling the cup to the brim. A spoon or two of sugar sits suspended in the foam for a moment and then sinks to the depths of deliciousness.

            There is the assurance that when all of the little steps in the ritual have been followed, a taste of heaven awaits. 

            Mmmmmm . . . how much do you need a coffee right now?