Saturday, March 31, 2012

International Cuisine @ Home - Italian

We begin this series on International Cuisine @ Home with my favourite of all cuisines, Italian.  I will aim to feature as many cuisines I know and what one might stock in a home kitchen to reproduce these foods at home.  Once you start to read a few of them, you'll find the ingredients will be very similar. It's usually the cooking process that determines where its from. I try to keep these basics in my larder, that span across a variety of countries, so I am able to have a variety of meals at home.

From the pantry:
Pasta, rice, flour, tinned tomatoes, chick peas (garbanzo beans or ceci), cannellini beans, berlotti beans, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, sugar, stock powder/cubes, breadcrumbs, yeast, nuts (eg walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts), polenta, tomato paste, passata (cooked tomato sauce already flavoured)

From the fridge:

Beef, pork, chicken, veal, cured meats (eg pepperoni, proscuitto), ricotta cheese, marscapone cheese, parmesan cheese, cream, eggs, milk, butter

Fruit & vegetables:

Onion, garlic, tomatoes, celery, carrots, potatoes, spinach, broccolli, eggplant, zucchini and their flowers (corgette), capsicum (bell peppers), asparagus, pumpkin (butternut squash), leeks, radishes, beets, mushrooms, fennel, artichokes, beans, prickly pears, lettuce varieties (eg rocket, radicchio), lemons, apples, berries, oranges and other citrus fruit, pears, grapes, peaches, plums, cherries

Herbs & spices:

Basil, oregano, parsley, marjoram, chilli flakes, thyme, garlic, sage, peperonicini (hot chilli flakes), rosemary, mint, nutmeg, saffron, vanilla

How to make your own pasta

Beef & eggplant lasagna

Chicken & vegetable risoni

Eggplant parmigiana & mozarella stack

Osso Buco with tomatoes & gremolata

Silverbeet & ricotta lasagna

Pesto genovese

Cannellini Bean Spread / White Bean Dip

Easy polenta

Orange & Fennel Salad

Pistachio & Cranberry Biscotti

Easy Pizza dough

So, there's so many different varieties of Italian food but the ingredients are found in most homes. Let the seasonal produce dictate what you're going to cook.  Remember, substitute, substitute, substitute.


Friday, March 30, 2012

To menu plan or not to menu plan

To menu plan or not to menu plan? That is the question!  Yes, I have done it over the years and no, I don't do it nowadays. I'm not sure what happened. I follow so many bloggers who menu plan and I'm in awe. I put my reason for not menu planning down to experience or just having one less thing to do but I found it quite time consuming to menu plan. I'd allocate an hour or so on a Saturday afternoon, for example, one weekend and the next weekend would come and go before I got the chance again. Things always pop up when you have young children.  There are, of course, many ways to reduce the time spent taken to menu plan.  I'd say these 'seasoned' menu planners have got it down to a fine art.

The times I have menu planned, I've loved. Menu planning is great for using up what you already have in the fridge and pantry. Knowing in advance (yourself and the family) what's for dinner makes things so much more organised.

My biggest problem is my 'fussy one' and it's just about the biggest waste of time for me to set out a week's menu when there's just no way she'll eat any of it. I've had probably near on 40 years experience of cooking and maybe 20 or more years of preparing a regular evening meal so I guess I can look at what's in my fridge and throw something together. With the invention of the internet, my job is so much easier. I can easily search for a recipe based on the ingredients I have on hand or use one of my many cookbooks for inspiration.

Sometimes the ingredients 'speak' to me. For example, whenever I have lamb, I automatically think of Greek food. Vegetables that cook quickly when sliced thinly always say 'stir fry me'. Your root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots say 'stew me or soup me up'. (No wonder I hear voices all the time with all of this food speaking to me!) 

The weather will also depict what's served for the evening meal. For example, on a hot night it's salad or a barbecue or I will use an appliance that doesn't generate much heat. If I've got chicken, I'll make skewers. If it's a cool day, I'll get the slow cooker on for a hearty meal of comfort food.

Buying your vegetables in season also helps me decide what will be on our plates each meal. Don't worry. The 'fussy one' gets a little bit on her plate to try, with much hostility, but we don't push the issue.

There are so many great menu planners out there in the blogiverse that freely offer their templates and printables to help you menu plan. Whichever way you do it, menu planning or not, always use what you have, substitute, substitute, substitute and don't run out to pick up that one ingredient you need to make a recipe. That's when you'll often spend more than you have to.

menu board idea

Write it on a piece of paper, a blackboard, a photo frame, online, in your diary. Do it weekly, monthly or 3 monthly. Develop a card system where you write down your family favourites or the recipe's page number from a recipe book. Get the family involved and let them choose. Designate one night a week as 'take out' night but make it at home. No matter if it's written down or done on a whim like I do, this will help you save money along the way and help you THRiVE.

This post is part of domesblissity's THRiVING - Thrifty Living feature.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thriving on Thursdays - Linky Party # 12


Well, I'm back, just. At times I just don't feel like I've got the motivation to even prepare a meal for myself let alone blog about it but in a way, my Mum taught me everything I know and she was proud of my blog (she'd just agree with me when I spoke about it so I guess that counts - she was from a pre-internet generation). I was so impressed with the last linky party that it was too good not to share who had the most links. There sure was some good ones. I'm sorry that I haven't been reading all of your blogs this last week but I hope to catch up with my favourites over the next few days. Anyway, here's the most hit links from the last party.

You will not believe your eyes when you read this post from Little Ladybird. Tash and her Mum refashioned Tash's wedding dress into a new outfit and matching bag. Unbelievable! Just so wonderful Tash. It really is beautiful (and how game are you for making that first cut?)

Katie from The Imperfect Housewife was very naughty but oh so clever sharing her recipe for Toblerone Mousse. There goes the diet Katie, thanks very much. How yummy and so easy!

Picnik collage

My dear Brisbane blogging buddy Jos from Sew, Cook, Laugh & Live is such a clever little thing. What a whizz with the sewing machine she is with this no pattern required lace top. Don't ask me how she does it. Thanks Jos for sharing this with us.

Thank you so much everyone for sharing your wonderful ideas. If you haven't already done so, feel free to grab a 'featured' button from my "Buttons" tab above. I can't wait to see what you've all been up to while I've been away. Starting after this week's party, I will hope to feature the recipes each week to help my readers with menu planning. Stay tuned!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

RIP Mum - 12 Oct 1931 to 18 Mar 2012

With my daughter aged 1 year
Sadly my dear Mum passed away in the early hours of this morning. She suffered a heart attack on Friday morning and was in hospital awaiting further treatment. She passed away peacefully, probably due to a blood clot.

I'll be taking a break from the blog for a while. Thank you for your friendship and support over the last 15 months and I hope to be back real soon.

Anne xx


Saturday, March 17, 2012

How long is a piece of string?

You know the old saying, "how long is a piece of string"? Well, how long is it and how many ways can you use the humble old ball of string. Anyone remember macrame? I can remember making some basic pot plant holders back in the 70's and I saw one at my local thrift store the other day and I'm kicking myself for not grabbing it. Put a basket inside and you've got a perfect place for hanging storage. I've found some great ideas for using string, including macrame, on Pinterest. Check these out.

Source: via Erin on Pinterest

Source: via Kara on Pinterest

Source: via Annie on Pinterest

Source: via Betty on Pinterest

So, how long is a piece of string? I thought I'd better stop there. Jute, twine (plain or coloured), thicker rope can all be used for such beautiful things.

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