Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tip: Freezing soup (and other leftovers)

Doesn't matter what I cook, I always like to double or even triple the recipe so I have leftovers. They're so good to pop in the freezer and save for a quick lunch or dinner, to avoid the dreaded takeaway or for the times when you or the children are sick or you just can't be bothered.

I'm a big fan of ziplock bags and for something like soup, I grab a coffee mug, insert a ziplock bag and ladle in the soup. The coffee mug is a perfect size as you can reheat in the mug and eat from that. Just zip it up and whack in the freezer. The ziplock bags don't seem to take up as much freezer space like a plastic container would.

For lasagnes, pasta bakes and similar dishes, I just cut into a serving size and pop into the ziplock bag. Throw it into the microwave to defrost and cook and you're done.


William & Catherine

I love a good wedding and what a lovely couple Prince William and Catherine Middleton are. I really hope they grow old together.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Mystery Shopping

When the kids (or just one kid) were babies, I would go mystery shopping. I was going to the shops anyway, so why not get paid to do a little 'snooping' around and ask a few questions. There's nothing to it really. You just have to check out the displays, the cleanliness and tidiness of the store, the range of stock, note the shop assistant's name and how they served you.

I haven't done it for ages but kept getting the emails these last couple of years. I decided to do one last week and now I'm hooked again, with two assignments today. Everything's done online so once you've done the shop, you enter the results online and get paid the following month.

The pay's not the greatest. Most companies will reimburse you, up to say $20, for a purchase or you might get paid in goods or a voucher. The in-store enquiries I made today will pay $12 each. If you do a couple per month, you might get paid up to $50 which is nothing to be sneezed at and easy money. Enough to shout yourself a pedicure, new makeup (heaven forbid) or a couple of good magazines.

Here's a few that I'm registered with. Check out your local Yellow Pages for more in your area.

Shop Angels

Service Integrity



Thursday, April 28, 2011

Creamy Potato & Bacon Soup

What a miserable old rainy day it was today. I wanted to just use what I had and I had bacon defrosted from making the pies the night before and felt like a hearty thick soup. I have a lot of potatoes so potato and bacon soup it was.

Creamy Potato & Bacon Soup

3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 bacon rashers, chopped finely
2 small or 1 large onion, chopped finely
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups milk
2 tbs plain flour
salt and pepper
olive oil

Fry onions and bacon in a small amount of olive oil. Add potatoes and cover with 2 cups of chicken stock. Boil under potatoes are tender. Add pepper and adjust salt, if required. Mash with a potato masher to your desired consistency, ie leave course for a chunkier soup or mash more until a smooth consistency. Blend 2 tbs plain flour with half a cup of milk to a smooth paste, top up milk to one cup, add to soup and add a further cup of milk. Stir until thickened. Serve with crusty bread.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I love my Dyson & Cookbook Culling

I was totally lacking motivation today to do the housework. Once I dropped the kids at school/kindy, I just came home and enjoyed the serenity ("serenity now, serenity now").  We've had our Dyson for about 7 years now and it has never missed a beat. Now if only it could cook!

Take that you popcorn crumbs, Easter grass and Easter egg foil!
Once I did the vacuuming, a bit of dusting and general tidying, I thought I'd make a start on my kitchen. Oh my kitchen! I've put up with the way it is for near on 6 years now and just made do with the way it was. It's only a small kitchen, which I like as far as the workspace goes, but the storage is minimal (or poorly organised) and I just haven't had the time or inclination to sort things out and find out what's going to work best.

Other than a plastic drawer tidy up, a pantry clean out or spices declutter every now and again, I've never attempted a big clean out because the kids would just wake up from their nap when they were babies or they wouldn't go to sleep. I was just so overwhelmed to even attempt something like this. I still am. But I'm taking 'baby steps' and doing little bits at a time. This small space above my stove used to house ALL my cookbooks. I hated it. I'd manage to wriggle a book out, about 5 would come out and then there'd be no way they'd go back in the way they came out. It's now a space for jugs, vases, sugar bowls, creamers and other bits and pieces, which I might find another space for eventually, but for now, it has freed up spaces in other cupboards.

The cookbooks are now nicely stored on our new bookshelf, which forms part of our new Ikea wall unit system. (Just look at the extra room for more cookbooks!)

This is what's going. I'm not sure whether just to list the whole lot on Freecycle, pick out a few to list on ebay or just take them all to the op shop. I really don't think I could be bothered listing them on ebay so Freecycle might be the way to go. I just want them gone now. How could one person possibly use the recipes from all these cookbooks? What was I thinking? Good idea at the time I suppose.

Now, who's next? Pots and pans, plasticware or the dreaded appliance cupboard?


Ned Kelly Pies

Ned Kelly was an Australian bushranger living in the 1800's and famous for making a 'suit of amour' out of sheets of steel, which he wore to a gunfight at Glenrowan, Victoria. He survived the gunfight but was captured by police and eventually hung in 1880. Some might say he was like the equivalent of Jesse James. Whatever you think, he is an Australian folklore legend.

[photo source]

Don't ask me what the association is between Ned Kelly and a bacon, egg and cheese pie but the bakeries here in Australia have been making and selling them for ages. Meat pies are an Australian national dish. I've got a pie maker and it's great for using leftovers for pie fillings as well as making a 'Ned Kelly' pie. I use the pie maker a lot in the cooler months.

Even though the pie maker is supposed to be 'non stick', I spray with oil, just in case. I use frozen puff pastry and cut out circles to use as the base and the tops of the pies. You can use sliced bread as well for the pastry cases.

Fill with chopped bacon, beaten egg (2 eggs makes 4 pies) and top with grated cheese. Put on the pastry tops and cook for 12 minutes.

These are good served hot or cold. I guess I have something to thank Ned Kelly for.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Corn Meat Fritters

I think my Mum still cooks for five sometimes as she always buys large pieces of meat to cook up and then has way too much meat just for her and my sister (my youngest sister lives with Mum). She had cooked up a large piece of corn meat and gave us half. I decided to use up half straight away for sandwiches and froze the other half.

I found that last little half in the freezer today and thought I'd make up a batch of corn meat fritters for lunch. They are a lovely memory from my childhood. Mum always used to make them with leftover roast meat, corn, grated vegies or whatever else just seemed to be lying around.

Corn Meat Fritters

Leftover corn meat, chopped finely
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup Self Raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 small egg
1 cup milk
oil for frying

Mix all together and drop spoonfuls in a shallow pan of heated oil. (Note: Don't have the oil too hot as they will cook too quickly on the outside and not cook on the inside.) Cook on both sides and drain on paper towel. Sprinkle with salt to serve.


Monday, April 25, 2011

(No) Housework (Easter) Mon(ANZAC)day

I've lost track of what day it is and then realised it was Monday and had no intention (or inclination) of even contemplating doing my usual housework today. I've laid down the law and given the kids until 3pm tomorrow afternoon and then it's 'tidy up' time.

The kids have been playing so nicely together today, in fact, we didn't see them for 3 hours this afternoon. This gave me time for a 'Granny' nap. I was so tired after a lack of sleep over the last three days. We had movie night tonight ("Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel"), pizza and popcorn.

They played on the fort, played with cars, dolls, My Little Ponies, singing, dancing, eating a few Easter eggs and generally being just good kids. The day before (up until Dad came home) they were a little bit of a handful. Probably a sugar overload and having to behave so much at Mum's place. I always find the day after they've been extremely well behaved, they tend to let off a bit of steam and it's usually directed at me. Poor old Mum, the punching bag.

Last day of school holidays tomorrow so it'll be business as usual on Wednesday morning. I'll declare Wednesday my "Housework Monday" for this week. Gosh, where to start. I think it will take me 6 months to pick up the bits of Easter egg foil from the floor and in every nook and cranny in the house.

So it's back to school on Wednesday and back to some kind of routine for me, hopefully (and some Chuck Berry up full blast to motivate me)!


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

To my wonderful husband, my loving supportive family, my gorgeous two children, my two four-legged friends and all my friends in blog land, I'm sending you a special Easter greeting and hope that your day is a joyous one.

The Mother lode!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Twas the night before Easter...

There seems to be a lot of association between Easter and Christmas these days, especially by my kids. When we saw the movie "Hop" the other day, the movie indicated that the Easter Bunny gets from house to house in this fancy carriage (looking a lot like Santa's sled). Even today at lunch, the kids were singing "the Easter bunny's coming tonight" to the tune of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". I guess there's the same element of surprise with Easter and Christmas, when the kids wake in the morning, but the part I love best is that you can usually be guaranteed that the kids will be well behaved leading up to Easter, as they are at Christmas. You can use the "you better be a good girl/boy or Santa/Easter Bunny won't be leaving you any toys/eggs". Works a charm every time.

Now, what to do once Easter is over? It's a long time until Christmas.

We returned home from a couple days at my Mum's this afternoon and quickly got together the kid's Easter baskets in readiness for their big haul tomorrow morning. A bit of shredded paper in some old baskets lying around, My Little Ponies for the girl and some Matchbox cars for the boy and those cute little fluffy chicks I'd picked up from the 'cheap' (pardon the pun) shop. They're so cute. A label with the kid's names and they were done.

No family movie night tonight as Dad is on his way home from interstate so just an Easter bedtime story with "The Smallest Bilby and the Easter Games" by Nette Hilton and Bruce Whatley. Australia seems to associate Easter with the bilby, a native Australian marsupial similar to a bandicoot crossed with a mouse with very big ears (a little freaky looking guy if you ask me but kind of cute). I don't know why but they bring out chocolate bilbies at Easter time and the kids seem to love them.

This little Youtube clip was doing the rounds via email this week and I thought it was kind of cute, even though I dislike cats with a passion.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday's "Good" Lunch

Having a seafood lunch has become a bit of a Good Friday tradition with my Mum. We all love fresh fish and seafood (who doesn't) and Mum can't get around much so I'm always happy to pick up something from my local seafood co-op and take it to her house for lunch. Myself and the kids have been at her house since Thursday afternoon, spending a few days here, while the husband has gone interstate for a couple days.

For entree, we had King Prawns with an Avocado Salad.

For main course, I served a beautiful piece of Red Emporer a la meunière on a bed of vegetables and some hot chips on the side. Because I was late getting here on Thursday, we didn't get a chance to go to the grocery store for fresh vegetables, so I had to make do with what Mum had in the vegie crisper and freezer. I found a pack of frozen carrot/beans/baby corn which did the job. For the avocado salad, I just added some chopped tomatoes, celery and parsley.

We served it with a glass of icy cold Baily & Baily Heaven's Gate Moscato. A light, fruity white wine which went down well on what turned out to be a very hot day. Finished up being 29 degrees C here today. A very warm autumn day.

King Prawns and Avocado Salad

3 to 4 peeled King prawns per person
1-2 avocados, diced
1-2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 stalk celery
fresh parsley, finely chopped
lemon juice
salt & pepper
Thousand Island dressing (just enough to 'wet' ingredients)

Combine all ingredients. Spoon onto plate and top with King Prawns.

Fish a la Meunière

Fresh, firm white fish fillets
plain flour for dusting fish
salt and white pepper
lemon juice
parsley, finely chopped

Dust fish fillets with seasoned flour. Heat butter in pan and when foaming, add fish. Allow to brown and then carefully turn over. Remove from pan. Add extra butter to pan (allow 1 tablespoon per person), melt, add lemon juice and parsley. Spoon over fish to serve.

We didn't have dessert as there is enough chocolate in the house to start our own shop!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Smokin' Lentil Soup

It's definitely coming into soup weather here in Brisbane with all the rain we've had lately and the cooler temperatures. I love soup but really only get to enjoy it in the cooler months. It's so quick to make, nutritious and filling.

I had lentils and vegetables and wanted to give it a little something 'extra'. I picked up some bacon bones from the supermarket yesterday and decided that would give it a lift and a rich smokiness wthout a lot of extra meat. Not that we're impartial to meat. There is a product on the market I've seen at speciality delicatessens called "liquid smoke". Something like this. It would be great to add to all sorts of dishes, sauces and marinades.

Smokin' Lentil Soup

3-4 bacon bones
1 cup red lentils
2 cups pumpkin, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, chopped
enough chicken stock to cover (I used water and chicken stock powder)
1 tbs sweet paprika (you could use a smoked paprika)
1 pinch dried thyme
pepper (adjust salt to taste at end of cooking as the bacon bones can be quite salty)

Throw everything together in a pot. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and let simmer until carrots and lentils are soft (approx 45 mins). Remove bones. (There wasn't enough meat on the bones to warrant adding to the soup.) For a smooth soup, blend or puree until smooth (I used my stick blender straight in the pot) or leave as is for a chunky version. Serve with crusty bread. (You could also serve with some fried, chopped bacon as a garnish. I just ran out of time.)


Monday, April 18, 2011

(No) Housework Monday, Play Date & "Rainy Days and Mondays"

Well, there goes the routine (hopefully not). All it takes is school holidays, a play date and a rainy day to send things haywire. The dishes weren't done, no floors washed or vacuumed. I was out the door at 8:30am, taking Ben to Kindy, back home for a quick phone call and then out for a play date with my daughter's school friends and their Mums. Had a lovely time, drinking coffee, eating cake and holding a newborn baby (no, I'm not getting clucky).

My husband tidied up his shed on the weekend and found all these posters. Laminated, autographed posters. We wouldn't have enough wall space in the entire house to hang these posters. They're still lying in the middle of the living room floor. Oh dear. Now to find a place for them.

Willy, our Miniature Pinscher
It's been absolutely pouring with rain here today, as it usually does at Easter time here in Brisbane. I don't think I can ever remember an Easter when it didn't rain.

I'll leave you with a song, that sums up the mood for the day. A classic by The Carpenters, "Rainy Days and Mondays". More rain predicted tomorrow and a few more days. Lucky Ben is at Kindy to get rid of a lot of energy for the next couple of days. Hope it clears up by the weekend or he'll be climbing the walls. (Not really. He and his sister play pretty well together. I'll keep them occupied with activities but there goes the state of the house. Never mind. There's always next Monday.)


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Quick Easter Egg Biscuits

Okay, so I get lazy sometimes and get caught up doing other things, or just can't be bothered. Today was one of those days. It was rainy, there was washing to be done and the day just seemed to fly by. Before I knew it, it was dinner time and I couldn't be bothered baking. There's always the Sunday night routine of getting the husband's work clothes ready, Kindy (and normally school) lunches to be made so no chance of baking tonight.

A packet of Arnott's Milk Arrowroot biscuits is always good to have on hand. I grew up on these and loved them with just butter or butter and jam. Many a time, over the years, I have used them as an activity for the kids, getting them to ice the biscuits and then covering in lollies and sprinkles and getting to eat them. They are also usually the first solid food we give to our babies, letting them munch on them until they are one soggy mess and you spend the next 2 years trying to get the mush out of the high chair crevices.

I love how they are the perfect egg shape and always good around Easter time. Tonight, I just iced and decorated with a few sprinkles for a play date morning tea we're going to tomorrow morning. The kids will love them. I've kept the extra icing and will freeze for another time when I'm looking for an activity to keep the kids occupied.



I don't have very many food memories from movies but one. The scene from "Julie & Julia", where the young American, Julie Powell, makes bruschetta and eats it. I just drool thinking about it. It just looked so delicious and mouth watering.

The husband asked this morning what was for lunch and I said I was thinking about making bruschetta. I said "you know, toasted bread topped with tomatoes?". And he said "so, basically toast". Basically toast?

It's so much more than that, flavour wise, but to make it, it's very, very simple. I have it often for lunch when I'm home alone. It's quick and easy but one of those eating experiences you never want to end.


2-3 tomatoes, chopped (I used cocktail tomatoes)
1/2 tsp dried basil or a few fresh basil leaves
salt & pepper
extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 slices sour dough bread (or firm crusty bread)
extra EVOO for frying bread
2 garlic cloves

Combine tomatoes, EVOO, basil and salt and pepper. Allow to sit for 10 mins as the salt will draw out moisture from the tomatoes.

Heat 2 tbs EVOO in a pan and fry garlic cloves for about 2 mins.

Remove garlic and fry bread each side.

Spoon tomato mixture onto bread and enjoy. Make sure you spoon all the juices from the tomatoes onto the bread as well. Sprinkle with extra salt to serve.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday Night Movie Night

Saturday night has become "Saturday Night Movie Night" for about 12 months now. It's a time when we get to watch a kid's movie, have an easy dinner, some junk food like lollies and chips and spend the time together as a family. The movie selection is pretty lame, as far as the grown ups are concerned, but I really love the way we all sit together and snuggle on the lounge.

Tonight's feature is "Here Comes Peter Cottontail". We have quite a selection of all the kid's favourites like the "Toy Story" trilogy, "Cars", "Barbie" movies and other recent releases. Sometimes we'll go to the DVD hire shop and hire one the kids haven't seen before. Maybe as the kids get older we might even go to the cinema or introduce Family Game Night.


Friday, April 15, 2011

On my mind...

It's the first day of school holidays here and my living room is looking more like tent city. The kids have been playing together so nicely and I'm continuously surprised at my daughter's resourcefulness. Even though they have a kid's size pop up tent, they wanted to make one with chairs and a blanket. The blanket kept falling off so she tied it on to the chairs with hair ties. If they keep up this good behaviour, I might be able to get a few things done for myself.


Cherry Ripe Cookies

Cherries and chocolate. A match made in heaven. Besides peanut butter, those two ingredients are some of my favourites. I needed to make cookies for the cookie jar and was a little tired of the usual choc chip or oat based cookies. I decided to add cocoa and then I had the idea to add cherries and coconut, very similar to one of my favourite chocolate bars, the Cherry Ripe.

Cherry Ripe bar
A delicious blend of cherry chunks, coconut and smothered in rich dark chocolate. Even the king size is never enough!

I used a basic cookie recipe, added cocoa, choc chunks, glacé cherries and rolled them in coconut before baking. I think next time I'll add the coconut to the mixture before baking as the toasted coconut flavour from baking was a little over powering and took away from how I was trying to replicate the Cherry Ripe flavours. I think if you even melted a bit of dark chocolate and dipped the cookies in once cooled would be even better.

Cherry Ripe Cookies

1 cup plain flour
1 cup Self Raising flour
1 cup sugar
150gm butter, melted
1 egg
1/3 cup cocoa
100gm glacé cherries, finely chopped
100gm chocolate, chopped or chocolate chips (you can add more chocolate if you like)
coconut for rolling (or if you prefer, add 1/2 cup coconut to the mixture before baking)

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Mix all dry ingredients together, melt butter and add to dry mixture. Add beaten egg. Mix together. Roll teaspoons of mixture into balls and roll in coconut. Bake for 10 to 12 mins, approx.

A crispy, crackled outer shell. Delectable, fudgy, rich on the inside. Not exactly a Cherry Ripe but the next best thing. (Note the depression cut glass serving plate which was my Nanna's.)

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