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The Strands Of Me Posts

More food!!!

   I have no idea where this fascination with food has come from….it’s not like I intended to start a blog and then write only about food. But, I find lately that I’m so interested in every aspect of food. Cooking, presenting and eating. The eating part especially.
   I do have other passions.
   But…I can’t exactly practice my piano with a sleeping baby….but I can silently whip up a Beef Stew, or some Chocolate puddings….
   It seems like my child and food are my whole world. As well as my wonderful husband. And the endless piles of washing, dishes and cat-hair-covered floors. I’m sure the genie got my Tim-Tam request mixed up with the washing and the basket…..
   So, I have two new recipes cooked for you today. A Honey-Mustard Chicken and some Sweet Indian Rice Balls. The chicken recipe is from a magazine I have; but I changed it a little, as I always do. I served it up to Phil one night and after eating it he stated that I should learn more technique and try out for Masterchef next year.

   So what I did was to pan fry two chicken breasts for only 1-2 minutes on either side till sealed then I popped it into the oven for 15 minutes to cook all the way through. I love cooking chicken this way, as the seal locks in all that lovely chicken juice that you generally lose when roasting chicken. When it’s finished, it’s so nice and moist to eat! While it was in the oven, I used the same pan and fried up a chopped up leek with some zucchini ribbons (just run your peeler over the zucchini for nice thin ribbons) and a little butter, scraping any flavours left over from the chicken into the leek. Don’t forget to season! When the leek is soft and just about ready, I through in a few chopped cherry tomatoes and tossed it a few times before removing that all from the pan.
   Lastly, using the same pan I put in some cream, Dijon Mustard, Wholegrain Mustard and a touch of honey and let it simmer and reduce to a nice sauce. Season as well. Pile it all together, with the cooked chicken and enjoy! So nice!
   Now, the Indian Rice Balls. A lovely friend of mine cooks a lunch for a bunch of girls every now and then, and I always offer to make the sweets, as I LOVE to make anything sweet. She’d cooked up an Indian feast for us this time, so I google’d for a Gluten Free Indian sweet to make, coming across this recipe quite quickly. It’s a beautiful recipe, tastes wonderful and I’m sure it’s one that gets easier to make the more you do it.
   So, as I’m currently on a Gluten Free diet, I was wrapped to find this! For the filling: in a saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of brown sugar with 2 tbs butter then add in 1 cup of coconut, 1/4 cup chopped pistachios, 1/4 cup cranberries (the recipe calls for raisins, but I think the cranberries were a much better flavour), and 1 tsp of ground cardamon. It should pull together like a loose dough. Take it off the heat to let it cool.
   While it’s cooling, make the dough for the balls. Bring a cup of water to the boil then add 4 tsp of melted butter. Now, you’ll have to be ready as it congeals really quickly. Stirring the water, pour in 1 cup of rice flour. KEEP STIRRING! Take it off the heat and turn out onto a bench. It’ll probably look like lumpy bread crumbs, and you’ll be thinking I’m full of it, but keep going, trust me.
   You’ll need to knead the rice dough together, but be careful as it’s best to do it while its still hot. Spray some olive oil on your hands, that helps. When it’s come together, roll it into separate balls, to get ready to fill. Press a ball into the palm of your hand then press into the ball, making a hole where your filling goes. Don’t play with it too much, or it’ll fall apart. Add a bit of the filling and press the dough together around the filling. The filling is a bit oily and makes the dough hard to press together, but keep persevering, as it gets easier. When all the balls have been made, you just need to steam them for 20 minutes (or maybe a bit more) to cook the dough through, or your eating raw dough. When they’re all nice and cooked, they’re so so so so yummy!!
   I found this recipe on the net, and found that I needed to make two batches of the dough for the filling, and even then I had heaps of filling left (that I turned into little Friands. Give it a go, cos it’s a really nice light dessert and you’ll really enjoy the effort you’ve put into making them! 

An Old Favourite

   So, last week I cooked Beef and Red Wine Ragu, and served it with Polenta. My Winter Warmer. Again, it wasn’t really a new recipe to me, as I’ve cooked a similar Beef Ragu without the red wine, but nevertheless, it still tasted yummy. I had some beef shoulder cubes and browned them quickly, before removing them from the pan and starting on the sauce. I simmered some Organic Tomato Pasta Sauce with some cubed veggies (carrot, zucchini and capsicum), garlic, onion, a stick of fresh Rosemary and nearly two cups of Red Wine. I used one we had in the cupboard. I can’t even remember what type of wine it was…. But I believe you’re supposed to cook with the same wine you’d drink with that meal, and it was a full-bodies oaky red…..if that helps. 
   When the sauce was all nice and simmering, I threw the meat back in and pop’d the lid on. I let it simmer on the stovetop for about 2 hours till the meat was nice and tender, falling apart. Then I made some Polenta (water, milk to boil, whisk Polenta in, add butter and cheese, Ready!) served it up and dived in!

   So good……

   But my Old Favourite. I was thinking of Family Recipes. What flavours and food remind you of home? We have a few things my Dad always made, Rice Pudding, Pumpkin Soup, Apple and Rhubarb Stew….but the simple things are always the best. Oranges and Sugar. I swear to you, this is one of the best things you’ll ever eat.
   So, go get yourself a fresh Orange. Cut it in half. Then carefully run your knife around the inside edge, between the flesh and the white inside of the rind, so you’ll be able to scoop the orange out of it’s new ‘cup’. Then run your knife through the inside flesh a few times, segmenting it. Do this to both halves. Then here comes the icing on the cake. Get yourself a nice big teaspoon of sugar and sprinkle it over the the cut orange segments. You’ll need about a teaspoon for each half. Then wait a minute as the acid of the orange eats the sugar and absorbs it.
   And here comes the best bit. Grab your spoon and go to town. Dig in. Let the juice run down your arm. Enjoy the sweet citrus melt in your mouth.
   I used to have this heaps when I was a kid. Dad’d come home from work and make it for us. Best dessert ever. I didn’t even think of taking a snap yesterday, till all that was left was…..

For My Mum.

   I don’t think I really appreciated Mothers Day till this year, my first as a Mum.
   I never really understood exactly how much having a baby actually changes your life. Not that I wasn’t prepared when our little Noah arrived. I think I’d read every book I could get my hands on. Surfed every site I could find. But, no book or website can really give you that impact. That knock-the-wind-out-of-you breathless feeling you get when you first see your child. When he’s laid in my arms for my very first cuddle, the warmth of his silky soft skin, his eyes squeezed tightly shut against the harsh white lights. And when they do open, they’re full of wonder, awe at this new environment, the new world they’ve just been born into. And, unconditional trust and love. Truly breathtaking.
   Then the sleepless nights start from day one. No book mentions it starting right away. But then, I don’t mind. Because one day he’ll be 15 and not wanting a goodnight kiss from his Mum, so I’ve got to steal all the kisses I can get now. And while I can find information on what to do when he has a temperature, it won’t tell me how not to fret. All the little things I took for granted, become big things. Going to the shop to pick up some milk requires packing nappies and wipes just incase that No. 3 you’ve been waiting for decides to rear it’s ugly head a minute down the road. Having a shower has become genuinely water saving, as a 4 minute shower now seems leisurely. Never mind shaving my legs, I’ll do that on the weekend. Or when he’s asleep. If I can get the washing hung out first.
   If I thought the job I had before Noah was full time, I was so very mistaken. It didn’t require 5am starts and 8pm finishes. Not mentioning the 3am just-checking-you’re-still-there. No-one puked on me, and I didn’t have to clean up poo. But, no one smiled at me the way he does either. No one laughed at me when I pull stupid faces (well, maybe they did), just to try and make him grin. Or blew the most adorable raspberries at me, with huge wet sloppy kisses to follow. No one required my attention so much, but then, no one else would appreciate it as much as my gorgeous son does.

   So, to my Mum. I appreciate you. I appreciate all you gave up for me, and all you’ve done for me ever since. I appreciate the encouragement you gave when I didn’t think I could, the hugs you gave when I did something good. The time you took to show me how to be the best version of me. And now, that I’m grown and have a son of my own, I appreciate you even more. Our shopping Tuesdays, the help you give. The advice when I don’t know what the right thing is to do. The smile, just for me ‘cos I’m your big girl, that says ‘I love you….more’.
   No, you don’t. I love you more. Always.

A Naughty Cake.

    Okay, so last week I didn’t make anything really new. I made Banana Friands, but I think that’s a cop-out cos I make Friands all the time. I hadn’t made Banana ones before, but it’s simple so it doesn’t count.

    So this week I made two new things, accidentally. I wasn’t meaning on making two, it just happened that way.  Yesterday I made a pavlova, inspired by the recent Pav by Donna Hay on Masterchef. It sucked. It sucked big time. I think it was the oven’s fault. (hehe)…..
    I followed everything down to a tee. Measured the whites, whisked and whisked and whisked, then whisked some more till they were nice soft glossy peaks. It looked perfect. Everthing in, I gently unfolded it onto the tray and pop’d it in the oven.Then I even let it cool completely in the oven, as the recipe says….
    It came out looking perfect. Okay, well, a little more golden than white, but it had a nice outer crust and had held it’s shape. I was so happy, jumping around the kitchen, putting together my topping. I had mixed some vanilla bean seeds with some nice mascarpone cream and was topping that with some caramelised oranges. Seemed perfect. I had the oranges in the pan, the cream on the meringue and turned to get the spatula out of the drawer to spread my wonderful topping when I noticed the whole top crust had fallen in.
    Shit.
    Turns out there was an air pocket between the meringue and the crust. So, seriously, I think it was the oven. I think it’s running hotter than I set it, cos I can’t for the life of me think what I did wrong. Turns out though, sunken pavlova still tastes quite good.
    So for this week’s newbie. A cake. An Italian cake to compliment my friends wonderful Italian lunch feast. I know I’ve done a lot of sweets lately, and my ass is paying for it – big time, but I just can’t help myself. It’s not like I’m actually eating a lot of them, I just enjoy the challange of baking. Anyway, back to the cake. Here’s your warning: It’s not exactly the healthiest cake I’ve ever made, by a long shot. But it’s the only thing I could find and I didn’t have to go shopping in the morning. That’s my defence and I’m sticking to it.
    It’s called a ‘Lemon Olive Oil Cake’. Stop balking. Stop it. Put your eyes back in your head. Yes, olive oil + cake. I did say somewhere above that it wasn’t very healthy…..and well….it’s a cake.
     Might I now say that it is the nicest cake I’ve EVER made. Oh. My. God. Light as a feather. Melts in your mouth. Sweet lemon flavour with beautiful overtones of the fruity olive oil.
    Did I mention that it was yummy?
    And it worked. It all worked out. There was egg yolk beating, egg white whisking, figuring out what the hell ‘cake flour’ is (a mixture of corn flour and plain flour), folding it together and baking till golden.
    If you want the recipe let me know.

Food, Glorious Food.

I love food. I love to eat. I love the sweet – bitterness of chocolate. I love the creaminess of butter. I love fresh pasta, lovingly homemade. I love vegetables; roasted, boiled, chopped and fried. Then mixed with more butter. I love Chicken; roasted, poached, chopped and fried.

But most of all, I love to cook.

I love the evening, when my gorgeous son is sleeping. When I don’t have any more chores to do. When I can retreat to the kitchen and….create. Create something that will smell devine. Looks like a picture. And tastes…..heavenly. Then, the part I love the most. I share my creation with my husband. And he loves me for it.

But go figure…..what man wouldn’t love his wife for cooking him dinner, every night.

So, this year I set myself a challenge. A new recipe every week. I felt as though I was cooking the same 4 or 5 things over and over and over again. So I thought, one new recipe a week will fill my cook book, and I’ll be learning new techniques as well. Trying new food and being more creative.

So I tried new food. I ate an egg. I don’t eat eggs, but I couldn’t remember why….. So I ate one. And enjoyed it.

Anyway, back to cooking. I hope to update my blog every week with my new venture. My latest creation. If if worked, how it tasted or if it sucked. I’m no Masterchef, but I’ve had a lot of practice and am willing to learn. I’m not going to stick to any particular book, author or magazine, but I want recipes that I wouldn’t necessarily create at home already.

If anyone out there has any recipe for me to try, send it to me!

This week I cooked Chicken with Rosemary Mascarpone Stuffing. Oh, it was soooooo good. I wrapped it in proscuitto and baked it. Then served it on some Leeks and Carrot I’d sauteed in a little (teeny tiny) bit of butter, lemon juice and honey. I loved the mild onion taste of the leeks, and the sweetness the honey brought out in them complimented the saltiness of the proscuitto. It was eaten to quickly to even have it’s picture taken. It will now become one of my regulars.

Last week it was Flourless Chocolate Cake. It was devoured, nearly as quickly as the Chicken, but I managed to get a photo in……before Phil came home and ate half of it.

Yum, yummy, yum, yum, yum…..

Multi-tasking Mumma

If someone asked me what another word for Mum is, I’d say ‘Multi-tasker’ (or is that two words?)

A Mum can do everything, all at once and while feeding her baby at the same time. Somehow, I can now multi-task better than ever before. Please do not confuse multi-tasking with a good short term memory, because that is one thing I don’t have. I can feed the baby while cleaning the floors, doing the internet banking, drinking my morning coffee and ironing a shirt (okay, the last one’s a lie. I do not iron. Ever) all at the same time, but can I remember to buy milk on my way home from Nanny’s?…..nope.

My day starts with multi-tasking. Every morning I find myself feeding Noah with my right hand while checking my Facebook, eating my breakfast, drinking my coffee and chatting to whoever has said Hi with my left.

Ambidextrous – (adjective) 1. Using each hand well. Able to use the righ and the left hand with equal skill. 2. Skilful in many ways. Very skilful and versatile. (ie – a Mum)

I had a multi-tasking spree one morning, a few weeks ago now. I had a few girlfriends coming over for morning tea and really wanted to bake this new Lemon Fingers recipe I had found. I thought, as Noah is an early riser, I’d get up, have breakfast and have plenty of time to get it at least in the oven by 10am. This particular morning Noah decides 4am is morning and gets up then. So I’m up at 4am. Still up at 5am….getting pretty tired now…..then, YAY SLEEP at 6am. So I lay back down trying to recover my lost sleep, (I think I left it somewhere, about 6 months ago) thinking I’d probably be up again at 7 with plenty of time to spare.

The only morning Noah sleeps more than an hour. The phone wakes me. At 8.

So I quickly learn the art of multi-tasking. When I’m making my coffee, singing to Noah to keep him amused in his Bumbo. Then all at once, I’m eating, feeding Noah his breakfast solids, drinking my coffee (I don’t function without my morning coffee) and baking my Lemon Fingers. I’m dashing around my matchbox-sized kitchen like a mad-hatter. Spoonful here, creaming butter and sugar there, slurp the coffee then start again. Noah has no idea what’s going on, his Mummy has turned into a mad-woman, but he doesn’t care as long as he gets his mouthful of Apple. Ah, to be a baby….

Anway, it all gets done. The food gets eaten, the fingers get baked and, wow, they taste great. A really good recipe. Never mind they’re still in the oven when the friends arrive, I like the smell they give my kitchen. And I’m pretty sure I did it all, in under 5 minutes…..okay, maybe a little exaggeration there.

Peggy the Alcoholic

I’m trying to make a habbit of visiting my 91-year-old Grandad more often. He’s the most loving, gentle, adorable and funny old man you’ll ever meet. So, once a week I bundle Noah up and we visit his Great-Grandad.

Grandad tells me about his day, stories from the war, stories about Australian history. We chat about climate change, countries and their policies and local gossip. All the while my Mum’s moodle (maltese x poodle), Peggy, lays on the couch and snoozes, exhausted from endlessly licking my feet when I arrived. The other week on my visit I was told the story of Peggy the Alocholic.

Every morning, when Mum drops Peggy off with Grandad for the day, they’ll go for a ride. He’s not all that good at walking anymore (being 91 and all…) so he has his motorised scooter he drives around the little seaside town my parents and him live. Peg’ll sit on the foot rest, between his feet and lap at the wind, hopping off every now and then to greet the odd stranger with a lick on the ankle then off they go again…

One morning, as they pass a caravan park on their usual route, two old ladies were standing out the front gossiping (did I mention it’s a small town??) when Peg did her ol’ lick and greet routine. The ladies thought she was the bee’s knee’s and gave her all the attention in the world, which Peggy loves. Grandad and his scooter motor up to the ladies where he waits patiently for Peg. One lady, besotted with Peg (really? She’s just a dog. She’s so small how can she be counted as a dog anyway? My cat is bigger than her) asks Grandad “What is she?”. Telling me the story, Grandad is chuckling away right now, wiping his mouth with his everlasting blue hankie he quickly says “Well, I think she’s an Alocholic. I follow her up to the Pub everyday.”

He says the ladies were quite taken aback by this and quickly retreat to the safety of their dingy vans, probably to gossip about the old man and his alocholic dog. I’m roaring with laughter. Noah’s giving me a strange look ‘cos he doesn’t yet understand what’s so funny. Grandad probably finished his ride at the pub (not that he’s an alocholic himself, but he’s 91 and if he wants a whisky, he’s damn well entitled to one) then back to his unit for his mid-morning sleep. But these are the stories he’ll come out with. And he’s quick. His body may be old with his roast chicken skin, but his mind is, as they say, sharp as a tack.

And I love him everyday for it.

Ready, Set, Go!

So, here I go….

I’m blogging!

Where do I start? With an explanation, I guess.

Q: Why do I want to blog….. A: To learn how to write.

I mean, I know how to write…a letter, a thank-you (yes, Mum, I do write these), an essay, a reply on a forum….but to be able really write, is something I long to learn.

To write a book.

Because it’s on my Bucket List. Sitting there amongst a number of things I want to achieve in life: have a baby (tick), write an album (one day), cook every recipe out of one cookbook (work in progress); writing a book has always been one of them. But the thing is, I need to learn how to write. Properly write. With the correct grammar and all that jazz too. And just let me say one thing: Thank God for Spellcheck.

So, I’m sitting here, typing one handed (as you do when you have a 5 month old bubba) and starting my blog.

Before I go any further, I’d better introduce myself….

Hi, I’m Daneyl. I’m married to a wonderful man, Phil, and we have a beautiful son, Noah. I live near the beach (but rarely go swimming), I love to sing. I play piano, and I absolutely love anything arty and crafty. I’m way too stubborn. I stress easily. I like my opinion to be listened to, even if you don’t agree with me. While I take too much to heart, and can get offended easily, I’m trying to grow a thicker skin. I’m confidant when I’m by myself, but not in a room full of people. I’m short, a little rounder than I’d like to be and I lose my hair like there’s no tomorrow (more on that another time).

anything else??

Oh yeah, I hope you enjoy reading my blog!