Monday, 31 January 2011

Monday Menu Planning: Week Beginning 31 January

While it seems much of the world is shivering in the depths of winter cold, we're sweltering.  It's 40C/104F today.  As it was (thereabouts) yesterday.  It's hot.  And school started today.  Isn't it always the way, that the temperature goes up and school returns.  There are a couple of new air conditioners in our school this summer and I was in a position to enjoy two of them.  Oh what a wonderful invention they are!

So I hear you asking what we're eating in this awful heat.  Well...even if you're not, it is the topic of today's post so I'll tell you anyway.  tonight I'm not cooking in the traditional sense.  I have leftover lasagna reheating in the microwave for tonight.  We'll be having salads instead of cooked vegies and the combination of weather and the return of school in earnest means quick meals that don't require energy I don't have.  As I said to Miss Sunshine, she and her sister can cook when I'm too busy to care.  I'm not there yet!

So for dinner at our place, you will find:
Monday:  Leftover lasagna, salad
Tuesday:  Ricotta fritters, salad
Wednesday: Roast chicken, vegies
Thursday:  Tomato & Bacon spaghetti
Friday:  Sloppy Joe's
Saturday:  Teriyaki chicken, rice, stir fried vegies
Sunday:  Homemade pizza

Obviously I've also had to think about lunches today.  Ham and salad sandwiches with a lunch box sized freezer brick for the kids, and a salad for me.  Miss Sunshine declared a box of fruit salad might be nice for recess tomorrow.  Personally, I enjoyed a blood plum and a container of homemade sweet and salty popcorn.  I'll have to post about that.  I think I've perfected the one thing that has prevented me from doing so until now. 

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Rice Paper Rolls

Rice Paper  Rolls

I've been meaning to post about my rice paper rolls all week.  I have to say, I did a magnificent job of it this time, so it's only fair to share.  Right?  This began with a "bring something to share for lunch" instruction at the beginning of Work Break.  What to bring!?  I finally settled on this idea and decided to prepare a chicken for it, since I had no leftovers from a roast.

So, for the chicken I took a whole bird (about 1.6kg) and put a spring onion and 3 star anise in the cavity.  On the outside, I brushed a soy sauce and sesame oil mix (equal quantities).  Then I shoved it in the oven and left it to bake at 180C for just over 90 minutes.  That cooled in the fridge and then got chopped up and was all ready for the next day.

The rice paper can be found in the Asian section in your supermarket.  If the Woollies in Our Town has it, I know you'll find it easily enough.  I happened to be in Coles down the Hill and found mini wrappers, so used that for my lunch-to-share.  For my own lunches I use the larger ones and make five.  That's just perfect for me.

To fill, you soak the rice paper according to directions (it doesn't take long at all).  When laid on the bench, I smear a small dollop of hoi sin sauce on one edge (as in the picture above) and then on that dollop, I place shredded red oakleaf lettuce, carrot matchsticks and chopped chicken.  Roll that as tightly as you can, as you would for spring rolls and refrigerate until you eat them.  So once you have the filling encased, bring in the edges and then complete rolling.

This recipe is great for those on a wheat free diet.  You can make it gluten free by using sauces appropriate for the condition.  This also suits those kids who hate bread in their school lunches.  My kids adore them.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Drop Bears Again

An anonymous commenter must have been digging around in my archives yesterday, because they left a comment on my post about Drop Bears.  In that post I'd lamented not being able to find a link to the audio of the Jennie Flack song that I so adored when I last worked in Prep.

How very appropriate to revisit this now, as I prepare to work in Prep again!  This lovely anonymous commenter found a link to an mp3 track, which gives the chorus and one verse, which hopefully will convince you, as well, that the song is just way cute!  You'll find it here.  The screen will just have one simple bar on it and when it's loaded you click on the 'play symbol.  I bet you'll be tapping your little tree-dancing toes along with me pretty quickly!

By the way, do you like my little shiny-eyed, peepy-eyed brown bear?  I thought he was pretty cute and embodies everything I imagine of that cute little drop bear just landing on my shoulder.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Book Review: The Thorn by Beverly Lewis

This is the beginning of a new series by Beverly Lewis, and I have to say I'm pretty impressed.  You know how you think you know what to expect from a particular author?  I'd say with this book, you'll be surprised.  I certainly was!

Anyway, my friend Rel has posted my review, so I'll not say anymore.  Click here to read it.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Recipe Review: Chicken Fajitas

The other day I mentioned that we'd had an impromptu meal with some friends, and that the two children were thrilled that they got to enjoy one of the meals they'd inspired me to put on my menu plan.  Finally, a review of the recipe appears!  Normally when we have wraps, or 'roll-up's' as our two little friends have dubbed them, I throw chicken in the pan to cook and then slice it.  Terribly unadventurous, but it worked so that was it.

The other night, after watching the episode on YouTube, I decided to try the recipe from 'Nigella Kitchen' (p52).  A far superior version than my previous attempts, I have to say.  It was full of flavour and zing, and everyone really enjoyed the meal.  Definitely guest-worthy, if we're talking family meals with good friends.  I used a kilo of thigh fillets and doubled the marinade and seasonings on the meat, which fed nine hungry people perfectly.

You'll find the recipe here.  And because I now think I'm so clever, here's the YouTube clip ;0)

Monday, 24 January 2011

Monday Menu Planning: Week Beginning 24 January

The kids and I headed out early this morning.  Early in comparison to getting out of PJ's at 10am, that is.  Rather, today we were all at school well before that.  There were lots of other 'staff kids' to keep my three good company and Mr Busy enjoyed catching up with all his favourite people.  He's very sweet.

It's good to be back.  It's good to catch up with what we've all been doing in our 5 weeks off.  And it's good to begin thinking about the year ahead.  Perfect segue for moving on to menu planning, and what I've been thinking about for the week ahead, when it comes to meals:

Monday:  Oven fried chicken, vegies
Tuesday:  Rissoles, salad
Wednesday:  BBQ Lunch; toasted sandwiches for dinner
Thursday:  Anglo-Asian Lamb Salad, buttered bread
Friday:  Creamy bacon & mushroom pasta
Saturday:  Roast chicken, vegies
Sunday:  Homemade pizza

There it is.  Now, to finish cooking dinner and have some water.  I forgot to drink enough today.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Picket Fence Ponderings

My little devotion book directed me to the end of Exodus 14 this morning.  The text was about how God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians by returning the waters of the Red Sea back to where they should have been, covering and drowning the Egyptian horseman pursuing the Israelites.  I was caught by one verse in the middle of the reading.

And when the Israelites saw the great power the
LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people 
feared the LORD and put their trust in Him and in Moses 
His servant.
(Exodus 14:31)

The thing that struck me about that verse was that it was only once the Israelites saw what God could do that they put their trust in Him.  It seems to me, this is not the first time the Israelites had seen God's power.  So this putting their trust in Him had to have been an often repeated act.  Something grasped with great enthusiasm in the moment and then slowly reliquished as life became ordinary again.

And then I wondered.  Do I let go of that trust in some way when life becomes ordinary, and then downright tough?  Do I have to rely on witnessing God's amazing power in some tangible way in order to maintain my trust in Him?  Surely that is quite a shallow kind of faith to have.

Over the last few years I have learned that when things are tough going, there is much comfort to be drawn from knowing that you are doing the work that God has set before you.  Without that knowledge there is, I find, a tendency to begin moaning and complaining about your lot.  You begin to become discontent with how things are and wish that someone (or God) would deliver you from the challenges you face.  Rather than relying on a magnificent display of God's power in your life, I find He tends to speak more quietly and I need to listen more carefully than the Israelites did that day.  

This year, the verse that will be tacked up on my fridge to remind me of why my days are full to overflowing and to bring me comfort when I wonder how I'm going to cope is this:

"Tell Archippus:  "See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.""
(Colosians 4:17)

Do you rely on only God's display of power, 
or do you seek His still small voice?

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Saturday Catch Up

Dream Lake, Colorado

Between thinking about food, which seems to feature strongly in any blog planning I might do, we've managed a few other things this week. My two highlights consist of screen time (sad, but true) and friend time (much better).  We've enjoy a meal out and a meal at home in the company of friends.

Our meal at home involved using our friends as guinea pigs for a new recipe, which I'll post about later in the week.  But I did wonder how it is that I constantly do this.  And half way through the first few bites I realise I had no idea how this might turn out, exactly.  Fortunately it's never ended badly.  This time, in my defense, the meal was inspired by two little friends, and they were the two who got to enjoy the product.  And enjoy it they did.

As for screen time, we began with seeing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader at the cinema, with the tickets we got for Christmas.  I am loving that these classic books are being made into movies.  Despite less-than-impressed comments by critics, we enjoyed the movie thoroughly.  Secondly, I discovered the joys of unlimited download time and the magic Nigella Kitchen episodes on YouTube.  I took myself and the laptop off to another room and indulged myself thoroughly.  And found myself inspired to use the recipe book more effectively.  Truly, this is what I love about famous cookbook authors doing TV shows about their books. 

Today I hope to acquire the Nigella Express DVD so I can wipe all those episodes of the PVR and free up some space!  Given the constant repetition of watching these episodes, my gift voucher will be well spent.  Even Miss Sunshine opted for one of these recorded episodes rather than watching whatever was on TV one morning.

I'm off to enjoy my last few days before the return to work.  I think I'm almost ready to head back.  First though, a haircut is required.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Recipe Review: Anglo-Asian Lamb Salad

photo from

Over our holiday I decided to bravely try and new salad.  Nigella's (of course!) Anglo-Asian Lamb Salad from Nigella Express.  It is one of those salads that truly is almost a whole meal.  I say almost, because it if were up to me I'd not need much else.  But husbands and children don't seem to agree.  I served this with bbq'd potato cubes to satisfy the need for something that 'sticks'.  In a perfect world I'd probably team this with a nice substantial chewy bread, like a ciabata.  It would be perfect to soak up the yummy juices.

As I was preparing the dressing, the children decided it 'stank'.  Fish sauce will do that.  And there was a fair amount of fish sauce!  However, the smell and the taste seem to have little to do with one another.  The other thing that stunned me was how the meat behaved when left to languish there in it's dressing bath, once it had been cooked.  I had Dh BBQ lamb rump (it's the closest the butcher had) so it was just a tiny bit pink, still.  After just five minutes in the dressing there was no tinge of pink left.  The acid from the vinegar had truly completed the cooking and left the meat lovely and tender.

This ended up being an absolutely delicious meal.  One that truly suits days when it's too warm to cook.  Having the meat on the BBQ took all the cooking heat outside, and the dressing took mere moments to put together.  So it also suits days when you don't have much time to get a really delicious, healthy meal on the table as well.
For the recipe, you can go here, at Nigella's website.  Now let me see if I can overcome my internet naiveté and post the You Tube clip!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Of All Things Book-y

I have some book-y news to share. One of my favourite holiday activities is to get into some good books.  It is really the only time I get to read with any efficiency anymore so I take advantage of the opportunity while I have it.  I read lots of good books, but three of them stood as worthy of pointing out.

Firstly, Chris Fabry's newest release, 'Almost Heaven'.  I love Chris's writing.  Beautiful prose, brilliant imagery and well-developed plots and characters are hallmarks of his work. 'Almost Heaven' was all I anticipated and more.  A surprising twist or two really 'made it', for me.  In this book, there are two layers to the story, one being that of the guardian angel sent to be with the main character, Billy Allman.  The angel's observations and insights added a dimension to this story that added depth and richness.  The second thing that delighted me was the appearance of Natalie, otherwise known as 'June Bug', towards the end of the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her blossom and take wing under Billy's guidance.

The next two books are by author Tom Davis.  My BIL handed me these books while we were staying with them last year, and I notice that one of them earns a place on his top 10 picks for the year.  After reading these books, I understand why.

'Scared' is the first book in a planned trilogy, in which photojournalist Stuart Daniels becomes famous on the back of overwhelming tragedy.  Set in Africa and focusing on AIDS orphans, Tom transported me to a time and place that broke my heart.  Tom's writing is masterful.  A perfect mix of beautiful prose that describes the horrors faced by those living in countries facing crisis.  This book is not for the faint-hearted.  It is confronting and revealing, highlighting the plight of children who become orphans because of disease and disaster. 

In similar fashion to it's counterpart, 'Priceless' continues the story of Stuart Daniels.  This time, set in Russia and focusing on the sex slave trade.  Equally heartbreaking, confronting and revealing, I shed my fair share of tears for the plight of these girls and the tricks used to lure them into the dark world they become trapped in.

'Scared' and 'Priceless' are both fiction works based on events that happen in reality, and as such, the plight of the characters in each novel distressed my tender heart.  Despite this, Tom brings hope.  He shows that one man (or woman!) can make a difference.  Even when the ocean of tragedy is overwhelming, one small drop can turn a tide.

Finally, Rel has posted my review for 'No Distance Too Far' by Lauraine Snelling here.  It's a great read.  An inspiring story of holding steadfast to God's will, especially when the future seems to be so unclear.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Recipe: Creamy Pasta with Prawns & Vegetables

While we were away, Dh went 'prawning' with a mate or two.  It's a rather late night affair, best done just after dark.  Dh invested in a prawn light and a prawn net and off he went to have some fun.  The good thing about prawning this year was that the river inlet was blocked off by a bank of sand, so the prawns were in good number and size.  A guaranteed return for the time and investment in equipment!  He came home with enough prawns for a really good meal.  I had to come up with something to do with them.  Prawns did not feature in my holiday recipes!  I managed to come up with something really quite delicious with what I had on hand and documented the recipe.  Dh insisted on a photo which he declared, should go "straight to the blog".  I expected him to say "straight to the pool room", thanks to 'The Castle'!

Creamy Pasta with Prawns and Vegetables

about 500g fresh prawns, peeled and de-veined
1 small to medium red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
zest of 1 lemon and the juice of half the lemon
200-300ml cream
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
½ head of broccoli, cut into smallish florets
pasta, cooked according to package instructions
butter or olive oil

1.    Using a steaming pan over the pasta, steam carrots and broccoli until just tender.
2.    Melt butter in a large fry pan and add onions and garlic; sauté until transparent and softened.
3.    Add the lemon zest and cream.
4.    When the cream has begun to simmer, turn the heat down and add the lemon juice and prawns.  Stir slowly to combine the ingredients.
5.    Once the prawns are nearly cooked, add the cooked pasta and serve.

Everyone raved about their meal and wished there were more!  One of the things I enjoy about seaside holidays is the potential for free protein to add to our diets, in the form of seafood.  We ended up with two meals of prawns thanks to some zealous prawning.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Back to Menu Planning

This is my last week of holidays before heading back to work.  It's a week I'm fact, little happy dances about being home are frequent occurrences.  As is the ability to sleep blissfully all night long.  How I've missed that!

Just before we came home I sat down to menu plan.  Lacking my own inspiration I borrowed the minds of two little friends.  They were excited about the fact that we would be eating some of their favourite foods.  Miss Mischief was excited that 'Roll Up's' (aka wraps) would feature sometime this week. 

Sometime this week I'll post a recipe or two.  I tried a new 'Nigella' recipe, perfect for summer heat as well as dreaming up something to do with the prawns Dh netted over a couple of nights.  In the meantime, I've a Uni Preparation program to do this week as well as planning something fun to do on Australia Day.  Last year we picnicked with some friends and enjoyed a leisurely afternoon.  That still sounds delightful!

Regardless of all our plans for the week, we must eat.

Monday:  Lasagna, salad (make a double batch to freeze)
Tuesday:  Roast chicken, vegies
Wednesday:  Potato gnocchi with tomato sauce
Thursday:  Chicken Wraps....or Roll Up's :)
Friday:  Jacket potatoes with bacon & coleslaw
Saturday:  Spaghetti Bolognaise
Sunday:  Bacon wrapped chicken, vegies

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Home Sweet Home

Eastern Water Dragon
We are home.  

Days of summer fun spent at the beach, exploring along 4WD tracks, walking and visiting these special little Eastern Water Dragon lizards in the wild at a little known spot has captured our time over the last few weeks.  We've enjoyed our holiday but there's no place like home.

It's time to turn our minds towards what is ahead in the next couple of weeks.  Slowly.  One day at a time is always the nicest way to reenter life after being away, isn't it.