Thursday, May 28, 2009

Webb Park - Part 2

Look at this fine fellow. He just sat there as I walked closer and closer to get a good shot. Finally, he condescended to look at me. I grabbed my shot and left :)

How's this for a view? You stand a the top, and the park drops away in front of you. The play area in the foreground is one of the upper areas. Over the edge it drops down to the lower playing field/area.

Lower down, and looking through the trees. This is right on the edge of the range - any further, and you're just about falling off Toowoomba.

I think this was from another area of the park - halfway down?

From the top, the other side of the play area.

And again. Magnificent.

There's a boarding school right across the road from the park. Their boarding accomodations are located and aligned so that the boarders have an even better view out over the valley. Although I don't think you would want to be there if you were frightened of storms!

Autumn Colours

We didn't get much in the way of seasonal colour in Brisbane - it is a subtropical city, after all. Actually, the Japanese Maples would change colours twice a year - mid-winter and mid-summer - but that was really the only thing that would happen.

I have been meaning to take some photos for weeks - there have been some wonderful displays of Autumn colour - lines of large trees in the most spectacular reds.

But I didn't get those photos. Still I like these. Some nice contrasts in colouring.

We don't have any of these trees on our street. Not quite sure what we have, but their leaves don't change colour with the seasons.

Webb Park - Part 1

Would you believe this came out? All of it. Of course, the slope at the park is now totally denuded :o

You better believe it! I walked up that path twice! (What was I thinking?)

This actually was quite a slope. Even more so, I guess, from the top looking down.

There was also a play area at the top where we all retreated to after the children had had enough. (Or rather, we parents decided the children had had enough ;) )

There was also a flying fox.

Both girls had a go, though Gracey only went once or twice.

Poor Mark wasn't feeling well, so he didn't go :(

Crazy Woman Alert

Oh, wait... It's just me (blush) We went to the park on Sunday, and it was a little... blowy, shall we say. And cold. But the children had fun - we were there with a church group, supposedly doing box sliding, except that the slope, which last year reportedly had leaves several inches deep, was bare this year. It's amazing what Napisan Oxy-Action will get out!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Note to self...

Scones require leavening.

Making scones with plain flour and no baking powder means you *aren't* making scones. You're making biscuits, and I don't mean the fluffy American kind.

My scone recipe also needs some salt.

So, the way I *should* have made it was:

3 cups flour
1.5 tbs baking powder (2 tbs for NZ, US, UK or anyone but Australia)
1 cup butter
2 cups milk (thereabouts)
Flour for dusting
A whole heap of grated cheese
A good pinch of salt

See, a masterpiece of planning, etc. My recipe had 3 cups SR flour, but I usually only have plain flour, and then add baking powder. But the recipe didn't state how much baking powder (didn't even mention baking powder) so I totally forgot about it. Until a few minutes before they were done, when I was wondering why the scones weren't rising? Duh! Well, that's what permanent marker is for: adding notes to the laminated recipes.
Anyway, I probably added 1 1/2 cups of grated cheese. The process is: combine flour and baking powder; rub in the butter; dump in the cheese and coat it liberally with the butter/flour mixture; add in the first cup of milk, and stir together with a knife; add the rest of the milk a bit at a time, until you get a soft dough. I used 1 3/4 cup milk, and probably used a bit much.
Dump the dough out onto a floured bench, and knead very briefly (30 seconds, maybe) before patting into shape, at about 2-2.5cm (1") thickness. Cut into rounds, and place onto a lined (or heavily floured) tray, and bake at 200C (400F) for 20-25 minutes.

They actually turned out ok, provided you weren't expecting scones. The only ones left are the 2 that didn't want to come off the non-lined, only lightly floured tray. sigh... I guess that's what soaking is for.

Oh, and no photo because someone (naming no names) left the camera on, and the batteries (rechargeables, thankfully) ran flat.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

If you look really carefully, you will see a little hand. Give you a hint - it's just above the Pooh Bear quilt, on the brown cushion cover.

See it? That's all I could find of my little girl. Obviously she was feeling the cold. And it's not even Winter yet! Oh dear!

And this is why you turn taps off before walking away...

Yep, she over-filled the sink.

Water play! Oh, wait... She's 12yo, and it's a sink, not a pool. hmm...

At least she took pictures *before* the water got mucky! I just wish she had actually emptied the sink a little. sigh...

Yes, we have a redundant, third tap, that doesn't even have a handle. And yes, the agency knows.


I'm getting annoyed with my camera >:( It's losing photos. I'm not sure if it's the batteries (I've got some Energiser batteries, but not the ones advertised for cameras) if it is because I've dropped it one time too many (blush) Of course the problem really comes up because I took a photo of Mark licking his plate at dinner tonight. I was going to post it and say how I told him not to do it in front of either of his grandparents, but it didn't save, so now I can't and... oh well. I know it was taken, because I noted that I would have to do red-eye removal before posting. Just checked the card again, and - nope, not there.
On the up side, I may be able to upgrade. er... When we get some money. hmm... Could be a while.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chicken Normandy

The original recipe came from Fresh and Tasty Casseroles, but you can find quite a number of variations on the internet. I didn't go by the actual recipe (I rarely do ;) ) so I'll post what I actually did.

500g chicken breast fillet (roughly - mine came skin on, and so I ripped the skins off, because I don't like them)
1/2 cup flour
nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste (a few shakes, a pinch and a few grinds, respectively)
butter for sauteing (however much you need to keep the chicken from burning)
4 small apples, cored and chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbs cider vinegar (note, AU tbs = 20ml, instead of 15ml for most countries, therefore 2 2/3tbs, or 3 tbs for ease of use)
1 cup apple juice
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch in the States)

Season the flour, then chop the chicken into chunks and toss in the seasoned flour. Only do enough chicken as you will saute straight away. You don't really want the chicken sitting in the flour as it may make the flour clump.
Saute the chicken in batches, and transfer to a bowl when the batch is done.
Saute the apple in the same pan, adding butter if you need it. Transfer the apple to the same bowl as the chicken, and saute the onion. Remove the onion to the same bowl, and let sit while you deglaze the pan.
Pour the vinegar and juice into the pan and let it come to a simmer. Start scraping the pan to make sure any caramelised bits get collected. When that's done, return the chicken, apple and onion to the pan, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes, checking every now and then. I had to add water at one point to prevent it from burning.
When the chicken is cooked, whisk together the sour cream and cornflour, and add to the pan. Allow to simmer and thicken, then serve.

I took a lot of photos, but for some reason they weren't on the camera when I went to upload them. Anyway, some notes on the photos...
This the apple chunks sauteing after the chicken had been removed from the pan. Notice the brown bits on the pan from where the chicken had been. Normally I don't bother dredging my chicken before sauteing it, but this time I did, and that helped thicken the sauce later on.

Apple cider vinegar, and apple juice, in their respective amounts. Ready to be added to the pan, after the onions.

The onions were the last thing to saute before adding the liquids.

It's a pity you couldn't hear the sizzle, or smell the aromas. The apples sauteing gave off a rich, sweet aroma, as did the juice. I really wasn't sure that apples would go so well with chicken, but it all disappeared, and quickly. At this point, I have scraped most of the pan, but some bits still remain.

The chicken, apples and onion had been returned to the pan, and left to simmer for ... actually I'm not sure how long I left it. Let's say 20 minutes. I actually had to quickly add water to make sure the sauce, etc, didn't burn. After this, I added the sour cream mixed with cornflour, and stirred it through. I'm not sure I would use cornflour again. I don't think it was really needed when cooking it in the pan like this. The original recipe called for baking in the oven, and implied that there would be a lot of pan juices, but in the frying pan the juices reduced quite a bit.

I served this with 'dirty' mashed potatoes. I would love to say that I also had extra steamed veges, but I didn't. I haven't been feeling well today, and didn't get around to doing them in time. And when I say 'dirty' mashed potatoes, I mean that I just boiled and mashed the potatoes with the skins on. Didn't even peel - just sliced into 1-2cm thick slices and boiled until soft. You don't need to dice the potatoes - they will cook just as evenly if you slice them only.

Well, this recipe certainly got thumbs up from everyone. It was sweet and apple-y without being too much so. (After all, it was a savoury main dish, not a sweet dessert.) Definitely going into the rotation.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

The week in which I aim to actually cook all the recipes I actually nominate. There have been times over the last week, where I have forgotten to pull the meat out in time, or didn't get to the shop in time, or hubby has wanted to do something, or something has happened. As for Saturday night - we we so full from the party, and I was so over making, that we just had something light and available. Anyway, moving on.

Menu Plan Monday! With thanks to Org Junkie for hosting this.

My plans for the week

Monday - Chicken Normandy. Have the chicken out, defrosting, the apple juice bottle is actually open, I have no excuses.
Tuesday - Beef Casserole. I have also pulled out the packet of stewing beef, so it should be well and truly defrosted for tomorrow morning.
Wednesday - Chicken Satay. Using the last packet of chicken in the freezer. I love satay, and this is so simple.
Thursday - Daube of Beef. Using the rest of the beef currently defrosting (I knew that I would make 2 meals out of it when I bought it.) This recipe appears to be just my casserole with leeks. Well, I have leeks to be used, might as well use them.
Friday - Tuna Casserole. An old standby. Must make sure I have eggs.
Saturday - Meatball Parmigiana. Really want to make this, really haven't so far. Sigh...
Sunday - Lamb Casserole. Love lamb. Love Casserole. Have lamb necks in the freezer, waiting for this. Yum.

We shall see.

Happy Birthday Bethy!

Well, we survived the birthday party. As it turned out, there were 2 guests, and none of the parents stayed for the whole party, so, naturally, I over-catered. I didn't even get to probably half of the stuff I arranged. I still have cookie dough in the fridge, as well as bread dough (was going to make pizza rolls - will now make dinner rolls.) I gave my Mum a box of crackers, all the left-over marshmallow cones, and something else that I forget at the moment, and still have a lot of stuff left over. We have plenty of party food, which I'm trying to reserve for the next party, in about 3 weeks. Cheerios/cocktail franks are sitting in the freezer, along with the spare kabana. In the meantime, it's back to eating real food (poor kiddies, having to eat veges :D )
Beth ended up getting 5 complete outfits (which she needed - the girl's been sprouting up unbelievably!) as well as a password diary, a jewellery making set (from her guests) and some other gifts. On her actual birthday we gave her a Bible (very pretty) and some things to go with it. She's reading through it now.
Anyway, I have uploaded photos to Flickr for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

[singing] I can see clearly now....

I recently got some glasses. I was told some time ago (er... 15 years ago?) that I needed glasses, and the original optometrist was said she was surprised that I wasn't getting headaches without them. Didn't get the glasses then. Didn't get glasses for at least 5 years after that, and when I did, they were cheap ones which didn't impress me. They wore out, and I didn't replace them.
Well, I had been noticing blurriness when I get tired, so I went out, got some health insurance, and bought some glasses. Yikes! The cost! And that's without getting the Donna Karan frames that I liked! And I didn't really notice a difference, except that I did get a headache (sometimes) with the glasses. And when I went to put them on while driving at night, after not wearing them during the day, they blurred my vision. I couldn't wear them!
So I went back to the optometrist. She explained that I had been so used to forcing my eyes to focus that when I put the glasses on after not wearing them all day, my eyes couldn't adjust quickly enough to the change in focus. Apparently I a) am long-sighted (Really? I would have sworn I was short-sighted!) b) with a strong astygmatism, and c) a lazy eye (or something like that.) So my lens prescription involves bringing the focus to the right length, making it into the right shape/focus point, and forcing my eyes to both look in the same direction.
I have now been wearing my glasses fairly regularly for a while, and I am now finding that I want them a lot more. I can still get by without them, but it has become easier to wear them. Thinking about it, I can actually see the point about long-sightedness. I have always hated being too close to the monitor - maybe a sign? Also, I now know I have my mother to blame. She apparently also has an astygmatism. It's all her fault! I can't remember if she is long- or short-sighted, though.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Having a party!

My baby turns 12 on Sunday! Well, when I say 'baby', I mean, of course, my eldest. Beautiful Bethy is turning 12, and we're having a party. On Saturday afternoon, and unknown number of children, though less than 6, will be turning up for munchies and fun. So what do you do for a 12yo birthday party? We've been pretty low-key with parties for a long time, mainly just celebrating within the family, maybe with the cousins. Do 12yo's do pass the parcel, or is it only if there's make-up, jewellery or phones up for grabs?
As for the menu, I'm planning, well, party food. Food that there's no way I would serve to them ordinarily, but let's have fun! Cheerios/cocktail franks/whatever, pizza scrolls, kabana, cheese and Jatz crackers, dip, chips, stuff like that, along with some sweet stuff, but not so much. Beth has decided on a Mega Cupcake cake for her birthday - 2 butter cakes, baked in pudding bowls, and one placed on top of the other to create the cupcake shape. Ice and decorate for a full-on sugar rush. I'm also thinking of fairy cakes (hubby wants them renamed 'angel cakes' as we don't do fairies ;) ) and marshmallow cones. I already have some flat-bottomed ice-cream cones, so I might as well.
Anyway, it should be fun, and I have orders to take heaps of photos. Must buy spare batteries.

Menu Plan Tuesday

Because I got slack and forgot to do it yesterday ;)

Well, tonight we had savoury mince, with bread on the side, for those who wanted it, because I had run out of potatoes, and didn't want to cook either pasta or rice. And I forgot to defrost the mince, which is why it was savoury mince, not meatballs. So... For the rest of the week.

Wednesday - Chicken Normandy. Trying again with this one - I got into a rush, and fell back on a recipe I knew.
Thursday - Meatball Parmigiana. Trying again with this one. Again with the rushing and not doing.
Friday - Tuna Casserole (because we didn't end up having it last week.) I love this dish, although making it on a regular basis means that I am now (seemingly) incapable of making a small amount of white sauce. But how easier can you get? White sauce, large tin each of tuna, corn and potato, 6 diced hard boiled eggs, diced onion, and cheese. Saute the onion in the butter used for the white sauce, make the sauce, add the tinned stuff, add the eggs, add the cheese, and you're done. And so yummy.
Saturday - Chicken Geneva. Devestatingly simple, and the children lapped it up. Dice onion, carrot, celery and ham, and saute in butter. The recipe said to dredge the chicken breasts in flour and pan fry, but instead I sliced them thinly (because I'm using 2 breasts for 5 people) and just pan fry them without the flour. Very quick. Then you place them in a shallow tray, cover with the onion, etc, mix and then top with grated cheese. I happened to have some grated parmesan, which I combined with grated cheddar.
Sunday - Lasagna. I did it with purchased lasagna sheets last week, and I may or may not used the other box this week. Or I may try making it myself. That's why I bought the pasta maker, after all. Oh, and the children voted lasagna Best Meal Ever. Top of the list, and they want it every night. Yeah, right.
Monday - Chicken and Bacon Gravy? Really don't know about this night, which is why I have just put down an oldie. So either this, or Satay Chicken.

Let me know if you want any recipes.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Well, the last couple of days have been a little different - we ended up going to Mum's for a big dinner there to celebrate her and her twin's birthday, and also to meet my brother's new girlfriend. Apparently I have met her before, but I really don't remember. Anyway, my previous plan didn't go to ... er ... plan. But we move on!
Laura, from I'm an Organizing Junkie asked how do people select new recipes. Well, I usually just stick to stuff I know when it comes to main meals, but I have been branching out. This is a list of what I look for in a new recipe.

  • Is it something that I know of, ie, something that I might have tasted elsewhere, and been impressed by?
  • If I don't know what it is, does it at least sound workable/interesting?
  • I'm not scared of long lists of ingredients, provided they're not obscure/expensive. In fact, I tend to steer clear of recipes only utilising 2-4 ingredients, unless I can see that they will work, and be tasty. I don't use cream-of-something soups, for example.
  • I'm also not concerned about recipes that may take a long time, as I already try to allow an hour for cooking dinner, as my own recipes usually require simmering time. I may just have to start it while doing something else.
  • I don't use shellfish, pork (I do use bacon) or otherwise expensive meats, but if I think I can substitute meats that I can use, I will try the recipe.
  • I don't deep-fry, but I will saute or shallow fry, so that changes what I will do.

So that's how I generally go about choosing recipes. Now onto my plan for the week.

Menu Plan from Tuesday 5th May, 2009

Tuesday - Spaghetti Bolognese
Wednesday - Chicken Normandy
Thursday - Lasagna
Friday - Tuna Casserole
Saturday - Meatball Parmigiana
Sunday - Chicken in Mustard Cream
Monday - Savoury Mince

I will start adding links to my recipes from where I post them at Scribd. In the meantime, you should be able to click on the button to the side.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mum, I give up

A few years ago, Mum bought me a bread maker. She knew I like to bake and all that, and got one at a great deal. But I don't like using bread makers. They're noisy, and take forever (it seems) and you just can't let the bread cook in there! Not if you want a decent looking loaf, anyway. So it went to the top of the freezer, and sat there. When we moved here, it went into the bottom of my pantry, and sat there. Until tonight.

You see I have arthritis in my hands, and even my wrists and elbows hurt at times. Writing gets painful after a little while (not long, actually) while typing is ok - I can do that for ages. Mouse-clicking does aggravate it, but only after a while of concentrated work. And kneading dough.
Although, looking back, it might have helped to add the extra 1/4 cup of water that I missed, but still, 10-15 minutes of kneading is a bit much. I know there are other methods, but they tend to produce a more rustic loaf, and I wanted just a normal loaf.
Well, I made one loaf today using the normal methods, but then I pulled out The Beast. I measured. I placed. I switched on. And I went into another room. 90 minutes later, it squealed (yes, it squeals - meh) and I went in and retrieved the dough. White (I used plain flour) stretchy, soft dough awaited me. I pulled it out, played with it for a while - very different texture to the wholemeal dough that I did by hand - and then made it into buns. If you do happen to use the recipe from Simple Savings (or my version) it will make 8 big (say, hamburger-sized) buns, which I then cooked at 200C for 20 minutes. The loaf is supposed to cook for 30 minutes. Next time, I will make it into at least 12 buns, and try 15 minutes.
I think this break maker is about to get a workout ;)

Making Bread

I've been wanting to make bread for some time, but, well, it turns out that my yeast was dead, so I ended up making bricks. Also, I wasn't happy with the recipes. But maybe it was the yeast. Anyway, I now have new yeast (yay) and when I received my Simple Savings e-mail, I decided to try the standard bread recipe offered by Sophie Gray. I couldn't get you straight to the recipe, but if you scroll (all the way) down to section 5, and then down to the 3rd recipe, there you go.
Well, I made it up with my stone ground wholemeal flour, by hand, and formed it into the loaf and baked it. The only differences I made were to simply mix the yeast, sugar, and salt into the flour, and then pour the liquids (and I've just realised that I missed out the 1/4 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon sugar in the very first step) and go from there. It made quite a good bread - standard, normal, not going to win any prizes with it, but a normal loaf of bread. I'd need a different recipe for making ciabatta (yum!)

I later tried it with plain flour (just ordinary Woolworth's Home-Brand Plain flour) and made buns from the dough. I was wanting to be able to replace the dinner rolls I had been buying, and this looked like a good chance. Well, I made 8 rolls, and I think next time I'll make at least a dozen out of the dough. They turned out to be big babies! Oh, and only 5 survive ;)

Yeah, they'll do;)

After consideration, I'll post how I did it.

500g flour
10g yeast (I use Lowan Instant Yeast)
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup hot water (probably should have been 1 cup)
3/4 cup cream

Mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Mix the water and cream, then stir into the flour. When mixture gets too stiff, turn out onto a floured or greased benchtop (either works, and if you grease the benchtop, then you aren't incorporating extra flour and possible drying out your loaf.)
Knead for 10-15 minutes, or until your can do the window pane test.
I never quite got to this point, but stopped, and let it rest for an hour or two. It wasn't warm enough, so that's how long it took. Also, it allowed the yeast to work on the dough, so that I could knead it again later. After a rest and a second (short) kneading, and a good bit of rolling, I felt happy with baking it off.
Anyway, knead, rise 40 minutes or until doubled, knead again briefly and shape into a loaf. Heat the oven and wait for the loaf to rise again, then bake at 200C for 30 minutes.

In the breadmaker, I combined room temperature water with the cream, then added the sugar and salt. Cover with the flour, and then yeast on top. Choose the dough setting and let it do its work. Once done, pull out, knead into shape (I made buns) and let rise while the oven is heating. Bake at 200C for 20 minutes (buns) or 30 minutes (loaf.)