Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Monday Menus and Other Happenings

In the midst of challenging days at work and the stress of finishing up assignments for the end-of-semester frenzy at Uni I have had a very exciting day.

My final assignment has been submitted.  I finally have a school at which to do my 3 week block of teaching rounds.  It came through today - I start on Monday.  Talk about last minute stress!  The most hilarious part is that I'll be at the last school my girls attended some eight long years ago.  My how we've changed and grown since we left that little community!

Next week's menu will probably include more miracle meals.  You know, the ones that appear on the table in the blink of an eye...or not too long past that.  I'll be working full time so I expect to be quite tired in a happy kind of way.  But for this week, we're just enjoying our current 'normal'.

Monday:  Sweet & sour pork meatballs, vegies, rice (a swap from last week)
Tuesday:  Ricotta fritters, vegies
Wednesday:  Meatloaf, vegies
Thursday:  Potato gnocchi & mushrooms
Friday:  African style drumsticks, vegies
Saturday:  Garlic & Verjuice chicken, vegies
Sunday:  Tomato soup & English muffin pizzas

There you have it - meals all planned.  No Uni to do tonight so tomorrow's inevitable shenanigans will be preceded by a relaxing evening in front of the TV.  'Packed to the Rafters' anyone?

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Menu Planning for the week ahead

One of the things I've enjoyed about a lighter semester load at Uni and less hours at work is time to cook and spend time with the family most evenings in an almost normal kind of way.  I'm bracing myself for the onslaught of 4 units again next semester!!  I was supermarket shopping with Mr Busy this afternoon after school and came across a Super Food Ideas edition with some bulk cooking recipes inside.  I thought perhaps I should browse and plan to get myself organised, especially with a trip to Costco hopefully in a few days.  I'm a little reluctant to stock up on freezer items in a big way because I'm never certain our electricity will be reliable.  Take Easter for example.  The power went off on Friday or Saturday and by the time we arrived home the freezer was warm.  I had to throw everything out!  The problem was as much a fault with our safety switch as it was about the power supply.  Hopefully we've had that problem sorted out now.

In the meantime I'm getting around to being inspired about meal planning, after being in a bit of a rut.  SFI, Steph's Country Kitchen and some renewed Nigella enthusiasm might just see me through.

Monday:  Honey mustard chicken, vegies
Tuesday:   Chicken, bacon & mushroom pot pies, vegies (Nigella Express, p.175)
Wednesday:  Captain Crunch Chicken, vegies
Thursday:  Sweet & sour pork, rice
Friday:  Tuna & Rice
Saturday:  Vegetable soup, bread & butter
Sunday:  Toasted sandwiches

Some notes:
*  We don't get 'Captain Crunch' cereal here so I'll just use more cornflakes than the recipe indicates.
*  Saturday & Sunday's lack-lustre meals are a result of birthday parties for my nieces and nephew.  We won't need anymore food!

One a semi-side note, I tried something new today.  Quinoa.  I'd never had it before but I've heard wonderful things about this little seed that impersonates a grain.  I cooked my quinoa in chicken stock (just powdered) and then mixed it with sauted red onion, toasted pinenuts, roasted red capsicum, sultanas and a little cumin.  The kids all had a little taste and were impressed.  Even Mr Busy who is a little wary of the unfamiliar.  The half cup of quinoa that I cooked was enough for 3 lunch-sized meals.  Each of the other ingredients were in about equal portions consistent with the amount of red onion....a fist-full of each.  I think quinoa might become my new rice.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Weekend Catch Up

It's been a whirlwhind few days.  I was all set to head off into the city yesterday morning for a PD (aka professional development).  I hopped in my car and turned the key.  Nothing.  Zip.  Not a sound.  My battery was completely, unexplainably and without any warning dead.  The kids were unceremoniously bundled into the car some 15 minutes before they expected to be and Dh whisked me off to the train station.  So not the leisurely drive in to the city I'd planned to have.  A whole hour (and probably more) in my own little head space pondering the world.   Anyway, I got there just in time and learnt heaps.  By the time I got home Dh had had my towed just up the road and had the battery replaced, the transmission repaired and the seal on one of the passenger doors glued back into place.  Definitely my hero.  Oh my goodness - the transmission is so light and smooth now.  And I can start the car in Park.  I didn't realise how much I missed being able to do that!!!!  I almost feel like I have a new car.

I feel like I've had my first real experience of running teenagers around.  Miss Mischief has decided to get involved in Kids Church on a Sunday morning.  A direct result of a spur-of-the-moment prayer that went something like "if you want me to do something please get someone to come up to me".  Bold prayer when you don't really know anyone at church.  And would you believe the next day the Kids Church lady came up and asked if the girls would like to get involved?  I laughed when Miss Mischief told me this the other night.  I told her you never pray prayers like that unless you mean them.  And she did.  Mean it, I mean.  Anyway, I earned good parent and bad parent points all in one night.  I dropped her off for training on Thursday evening....and then almost forgot to pick her up.  I was late.  Very late.  Very not like me!  But we'd been distracted by the unexpected coming's and going's for a couple of Dh's family members.  And last night we had to keep ourselves awake and remember to go and pick her up from church.  The youth were all whisked off to a youth event in the suburbs and returned back at church at a time when I'm normally going to bed....and to my knowledge she's still asleep.  Apparently this is what teenagers do.  Stay out late, sleep in the next day.  It's a new experience for us.

And now I'm avoiding an assignment that needs writing.  I really want it done this week so I can focus on studying for an exam.  I hate exams - give me a written assignment any day.  It may take longer but I do much better.

The rest of the weekend?  Dh's going to burn off a pile of stuff he dumped at a friend's property....and dinner with them.  Perhaps lunch with church/school friends on Sunday....studying.  And as Frances posted "cleaning. Maybe cleaning. Probably not cleaning."  I can so relate!!!!  Frances has also inspired me to start walking again.  Stories of her neighbourhood and gardens got me out the door this morning, sans dog.  We don't have a dog.  But I even enjoyed the light misty almost-rain as I walked.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Winds of Change

Do you fear change? 

The women's ministry structure and program in my church is changing.  I don't think the changes are enormous, but then I've not been involved until just this term.  I think the future plans sound great.  But I've nothing to compare them to.  The ladies who have enjoyed the ministry over a number of years, however, are struggling with the changes.

I learnt something about myself this morning.  I'm not terribly afraid of change.  Not at the moment, anyway.  We've made big changes over the years,  as a family.  Sometimes those changes brought a season of pain and sometimes the changes have been because of pain.  I remember at one point really fighting with God about what I thought I wanted for my life and being put out that I was being pushed to be in a place I didn't think I wanted to be.  Surprisingly those changes have brought about a great outpouring of blessing in our lives.  If I'd clung stubbornly to what I wanted we wouldn't be where we are now, geographically, mentally, physically....spiritually.

My heart ached for the women, this morning, who are obviously grieving and don't want to embrace the changes yet.  They underestimate the power of their own stories and ability to share in a way that speaks into other's lives.  And to receive what others may have to speak into their lives.  I can't wait to see how things are in 12 months time and see how they are able to overcome their grief and move on to the new adventure set before them.

Change is hard, but when we walk in the path God sets before us we don't need to fear.  We just need to trust and claim God's promises for His blessing on our lives.  It's a choice we need to make.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Recipe: Ricotta Fritters

Image from backyardpizzeria.blogspot.com.au

Someone commented last week asking for the recipe for my ricotta fritters.  You won't be surprised to know that in my hands the recipe has altered somewhat.  Oh, the basic recipe remains the same, but the original recipe calls for 2 cups of fresh herbs.  My family are not herb lovers.  These days I put a handful of chives in.  Or none at all.  And true to their anti-herb tastes, my family prefers the herb-free version.  Me?  I love fresh herbs, so as long as I have chives growing and there is no rain that's what they get.  They love rainy days when ricotta fritters are on the menu because I won't go out to get the chives!

The other alteration I make is that I flatten these into patties and shallow fry them in a non-stick pan.  And I would stress here that your pan really needs to be non stick.  Otherwise you'll have trouble turning them.  I made about 15 fritters the other night so I had some leftovers for lunch yesterday.  Yum.

Herbed Ricotta Fritters

500g fresh ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks (I use 1 whole egg)
1/2 cup self0raising flour
2 cups mixed fresh herbs, chopped
(eg flat-leaf parsley, oregano, rosemary, chives)
150g parmesan cheese, finely grated
vegetable oil for shallow frying
  1. Place ricotta in a sieve over a medium bowl.  Cover and refierate for 1 hour to allow excess moisture to drain from ricotta (I skip this step).  Drain, wash and dry bowl.  Spoon ricotta into the bowl.  Add egg yolks.  Mix until well combined.  Add flour, herbs and 1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir until well combined.
  2. Preheat oven to 160C.  Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Using 1 heaped talbespoon of mixture per fritter, cook fritters in batches of 4, turning often with a metal spoon, for 3 minutes or until golden**.  Transfer to a wire rack over a baking tray.  Keep warm in oven while cooking the remaining fritters.
  3. Place fritters on a plate.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Serve.
**I use my regular non-stick frypan with a liberal covering of oil across the base.  The whole batch fits in my pan so I don't have to cook in batches or keep them warm in the oven.


Recipe source:  Super Food Ideas, April 2007

Monday, 14 May 2012

Monday Menu Planning

After a weekend of celebration upon celebration life has returned to normal: work, homework, assignments, preparing meals, a bit of cleaning here and there, bedrooms that need straightening.  I'm sure your 'normal' is not so far different from mine on many fronts.

Mr Busy enjoyed his birthday on Saturday, with Yum Cha for lunch and party food for dinner.  Our tradition is that the children get to choose what they want to do for dinner.  I enjoyed Mother's Day, perhaps truly for the first time in 12 years.  The last Mother's Day I enjoyed as much I was in hospital with a two day old baby boy.  Generally, it's not been my favourite day.  Probably because there's quite a gap between my expectations and my actual experiences.  I forbade the children from buying gifts at the mother's day stall at school and begged them not to give me breakfast in bed.  As a result I received simple, but meaningful gifts and a breakfast with digestive recovery in mind (Yum Cha is quite filling!).  My toast was hot and my tea was perfect.

This morning I got some menu planning in before we set off for the day...and some assignment writing, but that's not terribly useful to anyone but me!

So here we go:

Monday:  Minestrone, toasted Turkish bread & butter
Tuesday:  Ricotta fritters, vegies
Wednesday: Creamy mushroom & bacon pasta
Thursday:  Oven fried chicken, vegies
Friday:  Freezer meal
Saturday:  Lasagna
Sunday:  Tomato soup, English muffin pizzas

For inspiration this morning I delved back into the internet archive "Way Back Machine" and fossicked about in Steph's Country Kitchen Goodness website archives.  The next week or so might see some of those recipes appearing.  And I need to dig through my Nigella and Maggie Beer books for inspiration too.  I hate it when our meals feel rut-like.

How do you celebrate things like birthdays and Mother's Day?  Did you feel special and spoilt on Sunday?

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Recipe: Baked Ricotta

Due to my arms not working last night we decided to forego having ricotta fritters and bought chicken and chips instead.  Not what I needed to be eating, but there is sometimes a limit to one's ability to persevere!  So there was over 1/2 a kilo of ricotta cheese in the fridge.  I love ricotta cheese so rather than let it spoil I found some way to use it for my lunches instead.   Google, again, was my friend by helping me find the recipe at taste.com.au.  And the recipe was easy peasy! I don't want to lose this one, so I'll copy and paste it here for us both.  But here is the link as well.

Baked Chive Ricotta

Olive oil, to grease
500g fresh ricotta
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chives
1 tsp chilli flakes
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush two 250ml (1-cup) capacity ramekins with oil to lightly grease.
  2. Combine ricotta, egg, chives and chilli in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon ricotta mixture among ramekins and smooth the surface. Place on a baking tray. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until golden and set. Set aside for 30 minutes to cool. Turn onto a cheese board. Serve with baguette chips.
Source Good Taste - November 2005, Page 60 (Recipe by Sarah Hobbs) retrieved from www.taste.com.au
Obviously my oven has been repaired.  Oh happy day!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

How to Cope with a Hard Day

I felt a bit like this picture after work this afternoon.  Inevitable when one of my students was having a particularly difficult day.  Kinda makes my day difficult too!  My children have been told that I might not be capable of being rational and we'll buy dinner because my arms are too tired to even hold a cup of tea up without support.  I am spent.

Days like today happen.  They're hard, heartbreaking days sometimes.  I cope with days like today because I work with amazing people who work together to sort out the immediate situation.  And then they offer their support as we debrief afterwards.  Our days begin with prayer for what will come our way - today proved they are a necessary part of our shared day.  Without their affirmation and care my work would be that much harder!  And I cope with days like today by recognising that not all behaviour in my students is borne of a desire to simply misbehave.  Sometimes they just don't know how to communicate what they're struggling with or how to work it through.  Frances posted, today, about how gracious her neighbour was in an obviously distressing moment.  I think that's part of the key to coping when things are tough.  Being gracious.  Understanding that people have things going on in their lives that impacts the way they interact.  And knowing that sometimes things happen that weren't intended.  Forgiveness.

I wish I could just sit with my student, give him a big hug and offer assurance that I could make everything better.  And I wish that it would be true.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


One of the challenges of moving to a new church is chiseling out a new community for yourself.  I have some very particular ideals around what community is within the church and the importance of giving of yourself for the benefit of the whole group.  It's that whole 'body of Christ' thing and being willing to play your part.  Moving to a new church has challenged me - how do I play my part when I haven't figured out quite where I fit....and when I'm not in a position to invest into ministeries during this season of life?

We're enjoying our new church.  We love the teaching, we love the provisions made for all different age groups and the way they intentionally plan to keep people engaged across all the generations.  We love the way our children are encouraged to be involved.  But I've missed close friendships and shared history that you develop over years of worshipping and minstering together with a group of people.  We came to this church knowing it was the right place and knowing that developing meaningful friendships would be difficult - it's a logistical challenge of bigger congregations!

Just as I was missing 'community' within my new church family in a meaningful way we were invited back to a friends' home for a cuppa...which turned into a casual lunch.  These aren't new friends, we've known this family for years and have come to know them better over the last 12 months.  But their spontaneous gift of hospitality was something precious right when I needed it. It was like a little shot of garden fertliser to help me flourish in this new garden.

How do you flourish in the place you've been planted?

Monday, 7 May 2012

Monday Menus and Mayhem

I was just scrolling through my 'from this blog' images.  Those photos are filled with so much stitching has been and gone and I've little time to continue with it these days.  In the last two weeks two different people have asked if I am still stitching and I've said "not at the moment".  Perhaps a little poke to get me stitching again?  Now, while the semester is quiet with only two subjects actually active?  Yes, maybe ....

The upside of no stitching is that I devote my time to weekly tasks and essay writing for Uni and there is beautiful fruit for those labours.  My Dance & Drama assignments came back with a credit and a distinction and my PE assignment was returned to me with a coveted high distinction attached...and glowing praise.  This is the 'work' God has given me to do in this season and while stitching is one of my first loves, it can be set aside for a while.  And while I'm content with my 'work', the stitching does occasionally sing to me longingly!

I need to phone about my oven getting together with a lovely Fix-It Man - the poor things needs the kind of love we just can't give it :(  In the meantime there is a limit to what can be cooked in there.  The lowest temperature is 180C if the oven stays on.  The 180C mark is now just as the oven turns on so it flicks on and off constantly.

Here is the nearly oven-free menu for the week:

Monday:  Crumbed beef schnitzel, vegies
Tuesday:  Tomato & bacon pasta
Wednesday:  Ricotta fritters, vegies
Thursday: Chinese pork spare ribs, rice, vegies
Friday: Vegetable frittata, vegies
Saturday:  Mr Busy's choice
Sunday:  Not sure

I'll crumb my schnitzel with polenta (cornmeal) and use cannellini beans for Tuesday's night's pasta in order to accommodate my growing issues with wheat.  Avoiding starchy carbohydrates like rice and pasta (gluten free, of course) seems to be working well.  I use sweet potato instead of regular and have extra vegies instead of rice.

Enough from me - a phone call to make and a couple of lectures to listen to amid dinner preparation is ahead of me yet.  What's going on in your week?  If you post about your weekly menu let me know where!  I'd love a peek into your plans.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Friendly Fix-It Men & Other Saturday Stuff

We have a new Fix-It Man.  The electrician came early this morning and had our problems with the safety switch fixed in no time.  The rangehood had light-fixture issues - now it doesn't.  The oven will have to get looked at soon.  After next pay day perhaps?  It's nice to know the house won't be inclined to burning itself down.  I am impressed with the electrician too - young man just starting out in self employment and he came on time.  A couple of minutes early in fact.  And he was nice and efficient.  That's important when you're looking for a good tradie.

While Mr Fix-It Man was fiddling around with the range, I was cleaning the bits and pieces he had to take down.  Obviously it hadn't been done for quite some time.  Frances - it only took 10 minutes.  One cleaning job at a time is the only way to clean a kitchen!!!!  I think one a week....but you might go for one a day.

Since then we've been at a working bee day at school.  My golly those days make me feel old and feeble.  I'm thinking it has less to do with me and more to do with the really heavy jobs they put on the list to be completed.  Some of them I just looked at and said "nope, that's not for me".  I felt a bit bad about that, but there were plenty of men looking for things to do.  So I cleaned the tuck shop cupboards (not a pretty job, but a woman was required!), de-cobwebbed the Primary school and cleaned the walls outside the secondary classroom.  I think a good movie or a book with a cosy rug is a good way to recover.  The fog has made the hills behind our house disappear and the rain has started again - definitely a good stay-inside kind of afternoon.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Of Menu Plans and Weird Diets

It's been a little long while since I posted a menu plan.  I wonder where the days fly to when I'm not looking?!  I've been on a little journey with my diet over the past few weeks.  As you may remember I was on a bit of an anti-sugar tangent - well, that continues on behind the scenes for me.  Wheat has been a problem for quite some time and now sugar is a slightly bigger problem than wheat ever was.  It's sad...you know, when everyone else is enjoying the texture and sweetness of a beautiful cake.  But the suffering just isn't worth it....pain is certainly a good prevention tool!  Severe indigestion, foggie head and insomnia are simply not worth it - not even for a hot jam doughnut.  And that is the sadest thing of all!  The happy thing is that my new scales are becoming more friendly.  We might even get to like each other over the coming months.  In any case, my diet consists of a lot of protein and low GI vegies, a small amount of fruit, natural yoghurt and 1 slice of rye bread each day.  A girl has to have just one small vice.  My dessert of choice?  Dried apricots.  They're really quite special when that's the sweet thing you have on hand!  I had about six crackers tonight - my tummy is bubbling.  It was silly...I thought I could get away with it.  Apparently not!

Anyway, our menu is something like this, with some alterations for me:

Monday: Creamy bacon & mushroom pasta*
Tuesday:  Osso Bucco with sweet potato mash
Wednesday:  Out for a birthday dinner
Thursday:  Feta Triangles, roast potatoes, frozen vegies**
Friday:  Minestrone soup
Saturday:  Homemade pizza
Sunday:  Roast pork, vegies

*  I have been having my pasta sauce over rinsed and heated cannellini beans.  A very satisfying alternative to pasta
**  I'm having roast sweet potato & pumpkin and no feta triangles....pastry is not nice to me either.

I learnt the hard way that Chinese is now on my "no-go" list.  I only had meats and vegies but OOoooohhh I was very uncomfortable afterwards!

How do you deal with dietry issues?

Thursday, 3 May 2012

In Which the Oven Tries to Die

I have good news and bad news.  The good news is I know what tripped the safety switch.  The bad news is that the rangehood, cooktop and oven all need to be looked at. :(

Our power went off the other day - just the powerpoints.  Very odd, we thought.  I had been fiddling with the light globe in the rangehood at the time, but didn't really put two and two together because we know the fridge is trying to die.  In the process of doing that the oven is doing strange things with its temperatures.  You know, 160C is now near the beginning of the dial instead of in the middle and there is not space between 155 and 165, so it flicks around by 10C.  Strange.  Annoying.

Today I went to light a flame under a pan - the flicker of the self ingnition thing tripped the switch again.  I'm beginning to wonder if this can wait til pay day to get looked at!

The kids are excited about the idea of getting a new oven.  I'm not.  If I had to get a new oven I would want to replace the whole kitchen with a light coloured colonial-facade type of cabinet doors with drawers instead of cupboards.  And a new bench top which is lighter and one I could put hot things straight onto.  I have dreams, ya know?  Nice, budget friendly dreams, thanks to Ikea.  In the meantime a frugal repair job will suffice for now.

And while we're talking about things that don't work - non-stick cookware.  I bought a Scanpan frying pay a few years back.  I love it.  It's a great size and depth, has a handle either side of the pan and goes in the oven.  It's perfect.  But it did not stay non-stick for as long as I'd hoped, despite being careful.  I discovered the ancient joys of seasoning a pan, however.  A little oil and a bit of heat and she's gleaming black and back to non-stick.  But you have to do it every time you use it.  I have to say - I'm a bit disappointed with the grand promises made by Scanpan in regard to the non-stickiness over the long term.

On a good note - still love my mixer and front loading washing machine, which is humming as I type.