Tag Archives: food

Do the Milkshake!

Yesterday, my daughter had a friend over and we ended up walking down to a local cafe for a milkshake with the dogs in tow and then onto the beach.

However, these weren’t your average milkshake. Indeed, if you tried doing the milkshake after one of these, your stomach would start to quake. These wacko jacko milkshakes are called Crazy Shakes, and have everything stuck on top but the kitchen sink.  The kids ordered a caramel shake and this came with an entire cinnamon donut parked on top  along with pretzels, popcorn, a caramello koala, a lollypop, possibilly some kit kat, caramel topping and goodness knows what else. Just like our local pie shop makes you sign a waiver before you try their scotchingly hot chilli pies, this place should do the same although I’m not sure how the waiver should read: “Warning: too much gluttonous pleasure contained in this glass?” Or, this milkshake could exceed your annual calorie intake? I’m not sure. I didn’t order one for myself, and ordered a chcolate muffin instead. As nice as it was, it really was “Plain Jane” next to the milkshakes, and I sprinkled some of the kids’ popcorn over the top.

It’s interesting how food trends have changed over the last couple of years. I didn’t bat an eyelid when I saw popcorn or pretzels in the milkshakes. What has become an indulgent take on the norm, would have had you locked up for your own good, a few years ago. That is, unless you were pregnant and could blame it on the cravings.

Anyway, shouting the kids these milkshakes made me feel like the fairy Godmother. “Bad cop” was nowhere in sight.

As I mentioned, we had the dogs with us and they loved being at the cafe. We were sitting outside, which was glorious. Although it’s winter here, sun and blue skies had broken through what had been a week of heavy rain and grey clouds and those warm rays of sunshine felt sooo good! Anyway, Bilbo wandered around the coutryard on border patrol and decided he loved the cafe life when he was given some leftovers. That’s right. It’s perfectly acceptable for dogs to dispose of those delectable leftovers as long as they don’t help themselves off the plate.

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Walking off Indulgence.

After their milkshakes, we strolled down to the beach and walked for a bit. Our struggling beach has been battered further and the erosion and removed more sand and tree cover. While it’s great for those gaining water views across the road, as much as water access would add value to their properties in theory, having your house washed away isn’t quite the same thing. Fortunately, unless there’s a very strong storm, that’s not on the cards…yet.

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Our Beach in Winter.

It was fun walking with the kids and getting to know my daughter’s friend better. While not being gossippy, I’ve found her friends are much more chatty about what’s going on at school and I at least gain some idea of what’s going on. That doesn’t mean that I have my finger on the pulse but at least I might be able to find a pulse if it’s needed.

Amelia looking out to sea

One last point before I head off about this playdate. At 11, the girls are almost old enough to have gone to the cafe themselves and yet they’re not. Not so much because of them as they’re quite capable of ordering, but because of those despicable characters we know are out there and we somehow need to be vigilant without growing out kids up in a dark cupboard. I’m glad they were still happy to have Mum and big brother in tow. We had a wonderful time.

xx Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share 4th June, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m offering you something a little different…pumpkin soup. Perhaps, this might’ve been healthy once upon a time. However, I’ve ramped it up tonight  with a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkling of home-made croutons. I don’t know what it is about this recipe. However, it’s the best pumpkin soup I’ve ever had. I always make it using butternut pumpkin, but it seems to have a special something. Could it be love?

Hope you like the photo I snuck in of the kids eating their Pumpkin Soup! It’s only a few years out of date, but they looked so cute!

Now, that you’d been fed, let  me ask you how your week was?

One of these days, I’ll have to add a rating scale.

Today, is my Mum’s birthday and my Dad’s birthday is later in the week. Usually, we’d go down to their place in Sydney, but we’re so busy. Our daughter has dancing on Saturday mornings and our son has rehearsals for the Scout Gang Show. I’m hoping we might be able to get together yet.

The past few weeks have been fairly stressful. I don’t know if  is the sort of stress you experience when you’re stretching and growing. After all, growth is by nature uncomfortable. So much is going well, and yet my awareness of all these things I’m struggling to change, has also increased. So, while I’m now tap-dancing and doing yoga, I’m still wading through stuff trying to clear up the house. I won’t use that dreaded word “declutter”, because I don’t believe in it. Indeed, after spending hours working on my daughter’s room, I arrived home with a crate of books from the op shop. These weren’t any ordinary books either. They included a four volume set of Home Mechanics Books from around 1910. They were more about repairing things around the home  such as your Grandfather clock and were absolutely fascinating. However, I am trying to follow what I’ll call a “trading policy”. That for everything that comes in, something has to go out. It works well for me in theory. However, like so many things, not so well in practice.

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Jeffrey Smart, Parking Lot Near  Bologna 1992.

This weekend, the whole issue of my teenage son’s school assignments reared its ugly head again. He’s been unwell on and off and the night before his assignment was due, our wifi went down. I don’t need to tell you that was a catastrophe of epic proportions. Anyway, not unsurprisingly, yours truly found herself researching Australian artist, Jeffery Smart, and his painting: “Parking Lot Near  Bologna”. Not to do his assignment for him, but to be able to help.

To be perfectly honest, this painting did nothing for me. Yet, I had to find something. Understand, at the very least, why it was considered worthy of an assignment. I personally prefer more of an expressionistic style with thick, lashings of paint, whereas this almost has a flat, photo finish. No, not my style, but I could see why the trucks might appeal to my son. That said, he’d probably prefer a Ferrari!

The last part of the assignment involved writing a 100 word story about the painting. It finally clicked that this was just like the flash fiction challenges I do. So, we talked through various plot ideas and possible names for the two men (Luigi for the Italian and Sergei for the Croatian) and then moved onto people smuggling. I wanted to teach him the thinking that goes into writing something like this, particularly the structure involved. Having that twist or punchline at the end. So, I wrote an example for him.  Here’s the link. It was very difficult to write, being set in Italy. However, as usual, Google came to the rescue.

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Hugh McKay

In  between the assignment and playing Scrabble with the lad, I also read read a fantastic novel, Selling the Dream by Hugh McKay. Hugh Mackay is a social researcher and the author of 17 books, mainly in the field of social analysis. Selling the Dream is his seventh novel. I am in the throws of writing a review. However, if you enjoyed reading Graeme Simsion’s: The Rosie Project, you’ll love it. It’s hilarious and despite being classed as satire, it’s incredibly real. Sorry, I forgot to tell you that it’s set in a Sydney advertising agency and has a serious swipe at the industry and it’s “heroes”.

I really loved reading this book and am really going to try to read books more often.

However, I’m sure you know how it in. Before you know it, the day just disappears.

As has the weekend. So, I’d better get this posted quickly.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.

xx Rowena

 

Cooking Like A Masterchef.

As I’ve mentioned before, Australia’s First Masterchef, Julie Goodwin and her radio co-host “Rabbit”, arrived somewhat announced at my place with a meal last week… as well as a signed copy of Julie’s latest cookbook…Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook.

Naturally, I wanted to cook a meal from Julie’s cookbook.

Well, actually I wanted to bake a dessert (or two, or three!!!)

However, being a parent and needing to role model nutritional and healthy eating, I launched off with a meal.

I don’t know about you, but choosing what to make for dinner every night causes me serious apoplexy. Indeed, my usual speedy, intelligent mind goes completely blank in what could only be described as “Cook’s Block”. Desperately seeking inspiration, I often end up staring through the butcher shop window like a starving mutt looking for the meaning of life, or at least dinner.

In the last week, this daily quest transferred to Julie’s cookbook. I really enjoyed reading the intro and picking up tips and feeling like I was still talking to Julie in my kitchen. However, I think it might’ve been the ghost of Rabbit coming back to haunt me. There was this loud chastising voice booming in my ear: “You’ve done enough reading. Stop talking. I’m hungry. Where’s dinner? Ten minutes to go…”

Actually, it wasn’t Rabbit. It was the kids. They were sick of staring at an empty plate!

Well, I finally decided on a recipe.

Last night, I made Julie’s Thai-Style Chicken Burgers (pg 75) for dinner, followed by her Apple Crumble Slice (pg 262) for dessert .

However, before I could power up the stove, I was off to the supermarket…ingredients.

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Due to my health issues, my husband usually does the big weekly shop. However, I set out to buy the ingredients for Julie’s meal all by myself. This wouldn’t have been an issue if I was sticking to the baking aisle. Fish sauce? Not an ingredient in your average chocolate cake. As for chilli…Don’t talk to me about chilli. Fresh chilli terrifies me after our local Thai takeaway redefined “mild”.  As for “Kewpie Mayonnaise”, I remember seeing Kewpie Dolls at the Royal Sydney Easter Show, but what did they have to do with mayonnaise? Not much.

I was pondering these challenges, when my phone rang. Lady, our Border Collie x Cavalier x Houdini had got out. That meant, a race through the supermarket and mad dash home.

That meant another trip back to the supermarket and Kewpie mayonnaise remained a mystery.

Kewpie Mayonnaise

While recipe books are pretty good with providing preparation times for meals, they don’t tell you how long it’s going to take you to find the ingredients. By this I’m not only talking about doing the shopping, but also delving through the flotsam and jetsam in the kitchen pantry. After all, most of us don’t have a “Tupperware Pantry”. Indeed, my pantry could well be described as a “mystery box” along with the fridge.

So, by the time I’d sorted the dog out, I was onto my fourth shop chasing ingredients. That’s not because I didn’t have a list and kept having to dash back again. It was just the usual thing of my day stop-starting and it wasn’t helped when the chicken shop had run out of chicken mince. The butcher came to my rescue again.

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So after hunting down minced chicken and doing the Kewpie mayonnaise victory dance, I was back home. Time to get the show on the road. Not that I had any film crews filming me. I might be cooking from the Masterchef’s cookbook, but I’m not Julie Goodwin and no one’s filming yours truly in action. This could well be a good thing because I could get the Health Department closing my beloved kitchen down. As I’ve mentioned before, I cook like  the Swedish Chef from The Muppets and the inspectors don’t like seeing raw chicken flying around, even if the dogs do clean it up afterwards.

Actually, even I’m very careful cooking with this raw chicken mince and am wearing disposable gloves. There’s no way I could touch the raw chicken with my bare hands. For me, this is the equivalent of an arachnophobe trying to embrace incy wincy spider. Erk!

On that note, my daughter who has been chopping the coriander recoils at the smell of the fish sauce. As complication builds on complication, I wonder whether Julie faces any of these hurdles when she cooks at home. However, after listening to Julie on the radio, I know she’s very human and her family is real.

I’m mixing things together and I must admit I added half the red curry paste and sort of “forgot” to add the fresh chilli…just in case. Once you add heat to a dish, it’s impossible to extract. So, this being my first attempt at Julie’s Thai chicken burgers, I added half the stated amount of red curry paste, but will add the full amount next time. It seems Julie’s chilli-meter is well-calibrated and well-suited to my palate.

The only points I would add to Julie’s notes, is to be really careful cooking with raw chicken. With mixing multiple ingredients into the raw chicken mince, you can’t go touching other stuff.  You need to have everything else set up first. Indeed, in future I’ll put everything else in the bowl first and add the mince last next time. Being conscious of food safety issues, especially when using raw chicken, it’s not being mysophobic. It’s critical.

Fast-forwarding, we’ve squished our mince mix into patties, fried them on the stove, spread our mayonnaise mix on our brioche buns, sprinkled chopped coriander leaves over the patty and added the lettuce.

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An endangered species…the chicken patty was out of the frying pan and straight down the hatch.

It’s hard to describe how something tastes. A better indication is how much is leftover at the end of the meal and are there any scavengers (other than the dogs) chasing leftovers? My kids are very fussy eaters. It’s a rare that my daughter even finishes her meal, let alone asks for seconds and she was almost hoovering the chicken burger off her plate. She also polished off a small leftover patty. You couldn’t get a better endorsement.

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Meanwhile, after polishing off the burgers, I was peeling and chopping apples while watching Masterchef for Julie’s Apple Crumble Slice.

More yum!

All but straight out of the oven, I cut the slice into civilized squares, which were soon by-passed in preference for double-servings all round (except our daughter who’d filled up on the burger). This slice is deliciously moist with a scrumptious crunchy top. Moreover, with all that apple inside, you can appease your conscience. It’s healthy.

We’ll be doing this meal again next week, although I’ll be doubling the chicken burger mix.

You can never have too much of a good thing!

Have you ever tried making any of Julie Goodwin’s recipes? Even if you’re overseas, you can still check out her web site and try making something wherever you are. You too can cook and eat like an Australian.

xx Rowena

PS Oops! The Apple Crumble Slice mysteriously vanished before photographs could be taken. The photographer succumbed to temptation.

PPS I just had a phone call from my Mum. I sent her home with the last piece of Apple Crumble Slice. Here’s her verdict: “Never tasted anything quite like that. Quite perfect by itself. Unique. No idea how you’ve made it. Didn’t need anything with it…other than a cup of tea.

 

“Weekend” Coffee Share 15th May, 2017.

Greetings and Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s now Monday arvo here just North of Sydney, Australia and I’m having to get a wriggle on because the linky closes in one hour and nine minutes. Well, that nine minutes probably just dried up while I’ve been tweaking so I’d better hurry up.

Anything, I have much to celebrate this week and I’m not just talking about Mothers’ Day, although that’s a great place to get started. Why not go backwards through the week for a change?

So, Happy Mothers’ Day. I know it’s a bit late, but I hope you had a great day  or are enjoying the tail end of it. At the same time, I am mindful that Mothers’ Day is also a time of reflection, grief or even raw anger for many and my thoughts are particularly with you. I get how special days can really exacerbate those emotions.

We had a great Mothers’ Day, which was completely unplanned and spontaneous. The kids made us French Croissant Toast, where you slice croissants in half and dunk them in an egg and cream custard with a bit of added lemon zest and thyme. They were very scrumptious indeed (quite aside from the thrill of the kids cooking for us!!) Balloon Bag

I also had an unexpected surprise when my son launched a shopping bag with a Mothers’ Day card in it into the clouds, trying a bunch of helium balloons to the handle. The bag looked amazing as it flew steadily upwards, looking very much like a hot air balloon and gondola in miniature. I wonder if anyone found it?

Late afternoon, I spotted some striking clouds and headed down to the beach with my camera. I really enjoyed that short afternoon walk while mesmerizing over the clouds.

Yet, as I mentioned, we had an amazing week and Mothers’ Day was just the icing on the cake.

On Monday morning, the local radio station Star FM, turned up as my place as expected to give me my prize. I listen to their breakfast show every morning while driving the kids around, which is hosted by Rabbit and Australia’s first Masterchef, Julie Goodwin, who has recently put out a new cookbook. Their visit followed up a blogpost I wrote after they visited my daughter’s school. I am a serious Julie Goodwin fan and was unashamedly gushing when I presented her with my copy of her first cookbook for signing.

Anyway, I’d mentioned that Julie had never turned up at my place with a meal in that post and that’s why they were here on Monday. Julie had made me her Butter Chicken and we were off to the kitchen to make a salad together for the cameras.

They posted this video of their visit on their Facebook page, which has already had over 6,000 views: Rowena & the Masterchef

Anyway, I just received a phone call from my daughter’s school saying she’s sick and needs to be picked up. Humph! She goes to school 45 minutes away so that’s me gone for awhile. I’ll come back and tweak this later.

xx Rowena

Yum! Mothers’ Day Lunch.

This year, we decided to keep Mothers’ Day simple and have lunch at home. After all, when you have a couple of budding mini chefs in-house, you don’t need to outsource.

On Friday night, we saw a recipe for French Croissant Toast on The Living Room and decided to run with it. Here’s the recipe and the cooks.

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Happy Mothers’ Day…a croissant smile.

The kids had some very enthusiastic helpers in the kitchen.

And even at the table…

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A Lady at the table…Naturally, I didn’t take this photo. It must’ve been Bilbo!

What a yummy lunch…and the day isn’t over yet!

Wishing you all a very Happy Mothers’ Day, whatever that means to you!

xx Rowena

Rowena & the Radio Stars.

Well, on Monday morning, I had a bit of fun trading places. Instead of being behind the lens looking out, I was being filmed, inspected and watched under the microscope.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our local radio station Star FM arrived at my place on Monday morning. While I was expecting breakfast radio host Rabbit to turn up, it was quite a surprise when his co-host, Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef, pulled up in our driveway in her gorgeously cute white mini.

Wow!

That wasn’t the only surprise.

Indeed, we were off to make a salad together in MY kitchen.

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Talking salad with Julie.

Phew! Thank goodness I was prepared. Geoff had anticipated something like this and warned me about the kitchen. So, when it was looking like I was going to need an orbital sander to remove the black ring around the hotplate, I persisted. Pulled out the big guns…Gumption, the green scourer and pure unadulterated elbow grease. Wow! My stove top could now appear in a commercial.

Or, indeed, on the radio station’s web site.

I also thank my lucky stars that I wasn’t wearing my pink, fluffy slippers.

The dogs are complaining bitterly about being left out. After going through the torturous bathing process, they feel a bit ripped off . Bilbo is particularly grumpy after trying so hard to be nice. (He’s seemingly forgotten, that he was barking so much, that he was removed from the opening scenes.)

Anyway, of course, I had to share this with you. No doubt, it will be quite weird for you to actually see me in person and hear my voice for the first time. I’d love to know what that’s like for you. After exchanging posts and comments with some of you for years without meeting, it’s actually rather exciting that you’re stepping into my real world, after being in my cyber one for so long.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

In case you’re wanting to follow this story through from start to finish…I wrote a post on my blog about meeting Rabbit and Julie Goodwin when Star 104.5 broadcast from my daughter’s school. In that post, I mentioned that as much as Julie had been there for me throughout the years, she’d never brought me a meal. That was until Monday morning when Julie pulled up in my driveway with butter chicken, rice and a salad for dinner. Go Julie! The radio station filmed the whole thing and posted the footage on their Facebook page tonight. It’s already had 964 views…amazing.

You can read more about their visit Here and Bilbo’s view of it all Here Bilbo had quite a lot to say.

I hope you enjoy it!

xx Rowena

Here’s a link to Julie’s recipe for Butter Chicken.

The Masterchef & the Rabbit.

Rabbits are usually the target, and not the decoy. However, this was no ordinary Rabbit.

This was Rabbit as in “Rabbit & Julie Goodwin” Star FM’s breakfast radio hosts. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by our local radio station. I was simply told that I’d won a prize and Rabbit would be at my house on Monday morning. Mia on the phone didn’t say much and was very adept at evading questions.

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Naturally, I had to do something for Rabbit’s visit. Create a bit of theatre. On Sunday night, I finally came up with the idea of Mad Hatters Tea Party…an Alice in Wonderland theme. After all, where is White Rabbit? I have quite a lot of Alice in Wonderland paraphernalia and it all came together very well….especially with some home-made, gluten free cupcakes which our daughter decorated. I also tied a scarf to the massive Norfolk Pine Tree in our front yard so they could find our house (as if they couldn‘t spot the crowd in the front yard and the tea party and don’t have GPS.) Well, my daughter and her friend were feeling “bored” and nabbed armfuls of my scarves and tied them to the tree. It looked fantastic, but very out there.

Suddenly, Rabbit and Mia arrived…along with a cameraman. Now, I should warn you that Rabbit knows how to keep a straight face and tell pure porky pies without flinching. Rabbit apologises that Julie couldn’t be there and presents me with a signed cookbook…Julie Goodwin: The Essential Cookbook.

As much as I appreciated the cookbook, I sensed there was more. That something else was up his sleeve. After all, they could’ve posted the book. AND, a radio station wouldn’t film someone who isn’t the author, presenting a book.

Then…  a dashing white mini convertible with “COOKING” on the number plate, pulls into our driveway and out steps Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef. She’d arrived at our place with a meal…butter chicken, rice with saffron and we were off to the kitchen to prepare the salad together…and for the cameras.

OMG!!! Obviously, I’ve never been the mild-mannered reporter type, but I was uber-excited. I was so happy, that I all but burst into song. Julie was here!

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Well, you might ask why Julie Goodwin came here. After all, our place is hardly Masterchef Central.

Well, that’s a long story.

As I said, I received a message from the radio station a few weeks ago saying I’d won a prize. I suspected this was in response to a post I’d written after Rabbit and Julie Goodwin hosted the breakfast show on Star FM at our daughter’s school. I’ve been a mad Julie Goodwin fan ever since I first saw her battling it out on Masterchef eight years ago.

When I heard that Julie and Rabbit were going to be at my daughter’s school, I drove the 45 minutes up the freeway along with her cookbook and my heart was almost palpitating. Once I saw her on air, I was absolutely transfixed and I found it so hard to pull myself back and harder still to watch her leave… “Julie! Julie!”

Pathetic, I know! Yet, there was just something about Julie, which made me feel home. There was something about her which calmed a raging sea I didn’t understand. I was having a wonderful day and yet something inside me was drowning. The waves were crashing overhead and yet there were blue skies and things were the best they’d been in a long time. Indeed, I’d even become a believer in miracles.

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My daughter and I with Rabbit and Julie at her school.

Anyway,  when I wrote about meeting Julie, I made a tongue-in-cheek remark about how Julie’s never dropped around here with a meal. Of course, I’d never expected that, but around the time season one of Masterchef went to air, I’d been diagnosed with a life-threatening acute auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis, where your muscles attack themselves causing debilitating weakness. Although I’d improved, I wasn’t out of the woods. Our kids were aged 5 and 3 at the time and with Mummy being an endangered species, it wasn’t uncommon for Church or friends to drop in a meal. It’s what you do.

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Dinner with Julie (she’s the cookbook at the end of the table).

Now, I’ve not only received a meal from Julie. I also have another of her cookbooks and it’s time for me to share the love. Pass it forward…at least to my own family.

Bon Appetit!

xx Rowena

PS You might also enjoy reading Bilbo’s account of events. I must admit he did write quite a lot about himself: The Queen of the Kitchen.