RSS

Tag Archives: Joe

Road Trip: Day 1

Road Trip: Day 1

Each year, a Medieval Renaissance Fair is held about 350kms from home. Last year, Brittany and I adventured north to experience the awesome that is Abbey Medieval Festival. This year, Joe took the weekend off and we made a mini holiday out of it. We were gone for three days and did a lot of exploring and adventuring which I will bring to you over the next three days.

Day 1 begun quite early. Before we left home, we tidied the house and did a general clean up after having left the house in disarray from packing. Even with doing such tasks on a day of leisure, we were on the road by 10am.

First stop for us was about an hour up the highway. I stopped in to see some wonderful dear friends whom I don’t get to see very often. Brittany had baked a coconut cake the day before to share with our friends Genevieve and Georgia for morning tea. I do love spending time with friends, and this visit made me realise I just don’t see my friends anywhere near enough.

Coconut cake made by Brittany and enjoyed by us all.

We left the girls early afternoon and decided to find some lunch. There were two must do’s for this trip – Sushi Train and yum cha. These are both luxuries we don’t get to experience at home. Although I do make similar foods, it’s never quite the same. Lucky for us, Sushi Train was quite nearby.

All aboard the Sushi Train! Next stop; flavour central!

The Sushi Train gets its name from the conveyor type system that runs around the stores main island delivering large quantities and varieties of sushi to its guests. The centre of the island is where the sushi chefs work their magic.

Oh happy day. Tamago and Inari on one plate!

My Sushi Train experience often starts and ends the same. Tamago (right) is a sweet omelette which is a delicious way to start the feast. Inari (right) is a soy pocket filled with rice, honey and sesame seeds. It makes a convincing dessert.

Panstickers aka five fold dumplings are one of my all time favourites.

I do make Panstickers on occasions but nothing compares to these beauties in terms of cooking perfection and presentation.

Potato and Tuna Croquettes

I never really get the fried foods at Sushi Train, but we were curious when we saw this dish for the first time. The filling is a potato and tuna mixture with a crispy crunchy outside. The best way to describe this would be to say it was a croquette.

Chicken Caesar Sushi

This style of food / flavour has just started to pop up everywhere lately and it seems sushi is not immune. This is a Chicken Caesar Sushi. Inside the roll is chicken that is topped with lettuce, smothered in mayo and topped with bacon bits and cheese. The flavour was very much as you would expect.

Asparagus Tempura (back), Pumpkin and Carrot Tempura (left) and Kakiage Nigiri (right)

And finally, my favourite. I always order these hot when I sit down, and they are generally one of the last things I eat because of the time it takes for them to be made. At the top we have Asparagus Tempura smothered with a rich teriaki style sauce. Bottom left is my second favourite sushi; Pumpkin and carrot tempura. To the right is my all time favourite; Kakiage Nigiri which is a grated vegetable tempura.

After saying farewell to the Sushi Train, we finally made our way to Brisbane. I had placed an order the night before with Allsop and England Butchers. They were the suppliers of the goat we recently stewed and I decided to take the opportunity to buy direct and in bulk. I ordered a few kilos of their delicious organic goat, a kilo of their organic free range pork and lamb and a sample of their pork belly and bacon. All in all, I am sure it was money well spent and you should see it featured in some delicious recipes over the next few weeks!

We arrived at our final destination for the day at around 5pm. Our gorgeous hosts were Renee from The Accidental Hippy, her husband Steve and two beautiful daughters Claire and Eleanor. We had a barbecue for dinner that featured some wonderful goat sausages I got from the Butchers to sample and I must say, they were divine! I also made a potato salad that tasted good after travelling 300kms in the icy esky.

As you can imagine, we were pretty exhausted after our big trip and sleep was not an issue. And we would need it… tomorrow is Abbey Medieval Festival day!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Road Trip

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Chicken Cacciatore

Friday nights are chicken nights, and we all love chicken! This week, we bought a brand new six piece Baccarat cookware set, and I’ve been itching to use the stove to oven sauté pan since I got it. I decided to do my spin on Chicken Cacciatore and take advantage of this one pot cooking style that I have been dreaming of. The results were mouth watering delicious, but had a very painful twist.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Chicken

1kg free ranged chicken pieces
1 red capcicum
1 zuchinii
1 large onion
1 can tomatoes
¾ cup white wine
6- 10 olives
½ cup flour
3-4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon tumeric
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon parsley
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Splash of olive oil

Polenta

2 cups water
½ cup polenta
2 tablespoons butter
salt to taste

Method

1. Preheat oven to 220°C. Chop all the vegetables into large bite size pieces and set aside. Remove any excess fat from the chicken before giving it a good season with salt, pepper and a little tumeric. Coat the seasoned chicken into flour (Photo 1).

2. Bring a sauté pan up to a hot temperature and warm the oil. Add the chicken and brown off. Remove from pan and set aside (Photo 2 above)

3. Using the left over chicken juices and oil, begin to sauté the onions with the garlic, thyme, parsley and left over turmeric. Once onions are opaque, add the remaining vegetables, and ensure they are coated in the juice and herb mixture (Photo 3 above). Add the wine and cook at a high simmer for 2 minutes.

4. Add the tomatoes, olives and bay leaves to the pan before returning the chicken. Don’t worry about submerging the chicken all the way into the vegetable and liquid mixture as the crispy tops add a lovely texture to the dish (Photo 4  below). Place pan lid on into the oven and cook at 220°C for 20 minutes.

5. Check that the liquid hasn’t reduced too much, and top up with warm water if needed (Photo 5). Reduce heat to 150°C and cook for a further half hour until sauce is reduced and vegetables are cooked (Photo 6 above). This will allow the flavours to develop. For those who enjoy a richer sauce, remove the meat and vegetables from the pan and reduce the sauce into a thicker gravy.

6. To make the polenta, bring the salted water to boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to lowest setting and slowly pour the polenta into the water in a slow steady stream. Whisk constantly to ensure the polenta grain is distributed evenly and totally absorbed into the water. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Bring to a slow simmer and allow to cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently (photo below). Serve when grain texture is smooth and tender.

Observations

  • This meal is a hearty delicious meal that tastes of heaven. I really enjoy it when ever I make it. I add different vegetables at different times for a slightly different feel, but the tomatoes, olives and capsicums are a must! Traditionally, mushrooms would be used instead of the zuchini but I am allergic to mushies so this is my substitute.
  • I am not sure that the polenta is traditionally served with a meal like this, but I adore the texture of it as it firms up. The salty sweet taste of if adds something magical to this dish.
  • Diabetic Note: For diabetics, I am unable to give you a good indicator as to how my BGL’s reacted to this as my BGL’s were sky high due to the burn (below). Ahh shock and stress… how you played havoc on my bloods last night. Anyway, carb content for the chicken portion of the meal is very low. I added the polenta to boost it a little for my insulin intake. Polenta is quite high in carbohydrates so don’t overdo the serves; less is better. Also, because the chicken is cooked skin on, there are a fair amount of fats in this dish, so keep the oil to a minimum when browning off the chicken / sautéing the veggies.
  • I have a cautionary tale to tell, dear readers. When I removed the sauté pan from the oven half way through the cooking time to check the contents, I forgot to put my oven mitt back on when putting the pan back into the oven. The metal was exceedingly hot, and I received some exceptionally nasty burns to my hand for my trouble. It is probably my inexperience showing as I am so use to the one pot cooking style. At any rate, my error hurt quite a bit. Thank you to Brittany for helping finish off the dinner, making the polenta, plating up and taking all the pictures.

Post note:

I really didn’t get to enjoy my dinner because of my burnt hand, but I sure did enjoy the left over sauce with toast the next day for lunch, and I think it tasted even better than it did the night before! nom nom nom

Its a few days later now and my hand is fine thanks to some tender loving care from Joe.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

A Knight of Murder – The write up.

What a day. What a night! I am pleased to be writing to you from this side of a very big night – unmurdered! Hopefully I will be able to be able to capture the enormity of the night in words for you. I must apologise in advance for the lack of quality photos; Joe was busy facilitating and I was busy cooking all night. Our camera was handed around for people to take photos with, however, very few of the photos taken were focused and/or of a good enough quality to use.

Theme / Background

The official invitation reads: “A tournament celebration is planned to honour the noble marriage of Baron Bartholomew to Lady Diana of Dunnseberry in the manor of Fernwood. As a resident of the manor, you are not only invited to be there, but your attendance is required by the request of your lord. Whether it is to see knights jousting or to partake in the ale and entertainment, your business is but your own… until you find yourself in the middle of a murder. With only one night to find the guilty, you will soon figure out that there is a lot more at stake, for murder in the manor is punishable by death. Whether you are guilty or not, there will be others trying to finger you as the culprit as you try to find the real murderer, and only you can defend your innocence. Who do you trust? Who will betray you before the night is through? Everyone is a suspect and no one is safe in this mystery of medieval madness.

If you haven’t already guessed, the theme for this murder mystery party was medieval. Purchased from Night of Mystery, the game we chose was called “A Knight of Murder“. There are several size options for this particular game, and we decided to host a 21 player game. There was quite a bit of time spent in trying to decided who would play what role, as the roles needed to match certain personality types. I ended up developing a fantastic way of matching roles with people. In an excel spreadsheet, I put the guests in column A. I then used Columns B – F trying on various character matches for our guests. Roles were given two categories; essential for the game and support players. Support players were expendable given a green colour, so they could be easily identified while essential characters were give red and blue colours based on sex. Visually, this worked for me and helped me assign roles for our guests. For the most part, I think our final role matches were great, and I can only attribute that to my method of selection.

Originally we had several friends coming along as “commoners”. These were “extras” we created a very basic role for that helped provide atmosphere. This role was given to individuals who wanted to come along and be a part of the night but were uncomfortable playing a formal role. This excess of people came in handy as we had a few late cancellations (including one cancellation within an hour of the event!). The newly vacant roles (in this case, two female support roles) were offered to “commoner” guests and luckily for us, were snapped up. One of these late role matches went on to win the best performance prize!

Music helped set the atmosphere. Joe had downloaded some Gregorian chants and some theme music from Braveheart, Lord of the Rings and the Last of the Mohechans. He also found some fitting classical music that worked in well. He put these on Brittany’s iPod and using the hall’s PA system, they were able to play these on random throughout the evening. I overheard a few comments as people recognised different songs such as “Stairway to Heaven” done as a Gregorian chant!

Finally, costumes. The most important way to build atmosphere is costumes and being “in character”. Thankfully, our guests had read the instructions sent to them well, and came prepared. Most were dressed well within theme, and came in medieval attire. Several of our guests realised that their costumes were only a little dearer to buy new then they were to hire from a fancy dress hire shop. In fact, our “best dressed” award winner came from that number. Its highly recommended that you check these options before hiring as in some cases, it may work out cheaper.

Decorations

Decoration preparation started soon as we finalised what game we would purchase. As we live in a two bedroom flat, we hired the local scout hall for our party. We decided early that we would require a lot of decorations to cover over as much scout paraphernalia as possible. We researched medieval manor decorations, and tried to make things that would help set the scene and provide a general medieval atmosphere. For the most part, the decorations were inexpensive or limited to the cost of general art supplies; hot glue gun refills, paints, brushes, cardboard and cheap felt.

Joe spent days pouring over internet images of medieval shields / coat of arms to try to get a good selection of images for me to try to replicate on ours. Made from cardboard boxes, our coat of arm shields required a lot of love and time in applying several coats of base paint on which the designs were painted. Using a hot glue gun, I affixed a little paper raffia rope to form a little hanging at the back which made placement around the hall easy. (Instructions for how to make out coat of arms is available here with additional images here).

We placed weapons all throughout the hall that we had made cheaply. To make the jousting sticks, we painted old fabric rolls (which we obtained from Spotlight for free) with brown paint. The tip was made by making a cone out of cardboard which we spray painted with silver paint. We affixed the tip to the stick using a hot glue gun. We also made one set of axes easily using cardboard, a curtain rod and spray paint. (Instructions on how to make the jousting sticks and axes can be found here).

For several weeks prior to the party, Joe started to scoured the local Op Shops (second hand opportunity stores) for old candelabras and candlestick holders. The older they were, the more it added to the atmosphere. We never paid more than a few dollars for any one item and estimate that we spent no more than $30 for the vast amount we purchased. We tried to have candles all over the room, and where possible, I used rose scented tea lights to add a subtle warmth to the room. This added a fantastic dimension to the experience, and became a focal point / ice breaker for a lot of people.

As the game we purchased required us to provide each player with 12 coins (which they could use to bribe / extort / trade for information), we decided to make a little coin pouch for each player. At the end of the night, we asked our guests to keep the coin pouches as a memento. Instead of using the paper coins suggested in the game, we used poker chips. The real weight of the “coins” in the coin pouches provided the players with a sense of value, and added to the over all excitement. The coin pouches were made by using a hot glue gun to create a pouch out of spare felt and different coloured ribbon was used to create a custom look. After everyone had arrived, we invited people down to the main table to select their own coin pouch and pick up their character envelopes. (Instructions on how to make the coin pouches may be found here).

Finally, we hung bright coloured pageantry flags from the ceiling. To make these, we purchased some cheap felt which we cut into a flag shape and using a hot glue gun, formed a look at the top of each flag that we could thread rope through for easy hanging. Using the graphics Joe had found while searching for coat of arms images, I cut out the shapes and patterns required in contrasting colours and glued them on to the flags. ( (Instructions on how to make the pageantry flags can be found here).

Food

As we had several friends coming along in supporting roles, we catered for 35 people. Our menu options were chosen to cater for all tastes, provide an interesting varied range of foods that would be delicious as well as being fast and easy to prepare. When we sent out our invitations, we asked for our guests to get in touch with us with any dietary requirements. Although no one indicated any, we still chose to provide vegetarian options. Our menu consisted of three “courses” – cold buffet, hot finger foods and a round of desserts with each course consisted of several “dishes” as outlined below:

Cold Buffet

  • A variety of nuts
  • Spinach dip served in a cob loaf
  • Corn relish dip served in a cob loaf
  • Devilled Free Ranged Eggs (which we forgot to serve – DUH!)
  • Cold meat platter – Salami, Cabanosi, Kabana, Kransky, Salmon Pate and Cracked Pepper Pate served with a variety of crackers
  • Cheese platter – Blue, Camembert, Swiss, Edam, Tasty, Vintage, Apricot / Walnut Cheese and Fig Paste served with melba toast
  • Antipasto platter – Chargrilled eggplant, capcicum and mushrooms, marinated artichoke, olives and baby bell caps stuffed with feta served with wafers

Hot Finger Foods

  • Chicken Sausage Rolls (Purchased from Lennards)
  • Free Ranged Chicken Winglets done in three different marinades – Satay, Spicy BBQ and Honey Soy
  • Fried Cheese Kransy served with Garlic Bread Fingers
  • Vegetarian Spring Rolls (which didn’t end up being served due to an excess of food!)

Desserts

  • Seasonal Fruit Platter – Mangos, rock and water melons, kiwi, apricots, blueberries, strawberries, mandarin, grapes
  • Chocolate Mud Cake

Thankfully I had spent the great deal of Friday preparing for the party by finalising decorations and costumes and prepping food. This allowed our day yesterday to start out rather slow, but on a definite strict time frame. Our menu had been chosen weeks in advance allowing us to slowly collect our ingredients and spread the cost out over several weeks. As the food was the most expensive part of the evening ($200  – 300), spreading out the cost this way was a bonus.

Our free ranged chicken was supplied by a local company – Alstonville Poultry Farm. Sadly, this quality local supplier recently decided to close their doors, however, bargains can still be purchased so be quick! I started preparing the winglets on Friday by chopped 5kg of chicken wings at the joints and discarded the wing tips. This wasnt really difficult, but it was time consuming. To make my life a little easier, we decided to use disposable foil trays for the hot foods. I had originally planned on making all my own marinades, but at the last minute we decided to use Taylor’s premade marinades. There were a few reasons for this, but at the end of the day, it boiled down to cost, time and ease. The winglets were then refrigerated to soak up the marinade goodness overnight.

The hall has an oven, however I learned from previous experience that the oven isn’t great. While it is useful for warming food, it takes far too long to cook anything from scratch. With this prior knowledge in mind, I begun cooking the food at home by late afternoon on the day of the party. I cooked the chicken sausage rolls until just done and then stored stacked in a foam “hot box” so that they would retain their heat. The chicken wings were cooked in a moderate oven for 45minutes, turning once halfway through cooking. Once cooked, they were stored in a foam box with the chicken sausage rolls which stayed warm for a few hours. Although the food was still hot when I was ready to serve it, I just gave it 10 minutes in a hot oven to ensure it was pipping hot prior to serving.

Observations and Suggestions

Firstly, I am devastated that there are hardly any quality photos of the night. This is due, in part, to the fact that I was tied to the kitchen the entire night. My role as host / caterer meant I had almost no time at all with our guests – some of whom had travelled up to 800kms to attend. While this caused me a little heart ache, ultimately I was grateful to see the happy smiling faces on our guests who seemed to enjoy the evening. Things I would do differently would include:

  • Asking several people to being cameras/ take photos – going to a lot of expense with no visual memories sucks! I have no photos of how awesome Joe’s costume was =(
  • Hiring caters or not catering at all by asking guests to please provide a plate would free up the host a lot more to help facilitate / mingle
  • We had invited 10 – 15 extra friends to come to our party as support people / commoners, however, for various reasons, only 4 turned up. At the end of the night, only one person did not have a playing role.
  • Use a microphone during the various speeches so everyone can hear. While we encourage our guests to have fun, some people did not stop talking during speeches and disrupted the processes / experience of others. A PA system would have allowed everyone to hear announcements / information regardless of peoples chatter.
  • We had one criticism of the chicken winglets. Even though napkins and plastic entrée plates were provided, it seems that they were messy to eat. Although delicious, I would probably omit these in future.
  • We had to make sure the hall was clean and reset before we left. We made a general announcement at the end of the evening asking for help to clean. Although most people stayed, several looked displeased and sat around the edges watching. This gave me an uneasy feeling, and I certainly wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s evening. In future, I would organise beforehand with several reliable friends to stay and help.
 
3 Comments

Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , ,

Happy Birthday!

Today is my birthday, and I will be 41. To celebrate, the day was spent in happy occupation with my family and friends. I awoke early to go for a walk with Joe. Its the first time we have had opportunity to go for our daily walk in weeks; weather, morning sickness and then baby loss all conspired to ensure we turned into couch potatoes over the summer. Nevertheless, today was a wonderfully sunny day, and the walk was enjoyable. When we returned home, I had a very yummy breaky treat waiting for me. Brittany had made us a short stack of pancakes with mango, ice cream and maple syrup! I am fairly sure, though, that my diabetes educator and dietician would not approve, but oh my!! They were good!

Joe has been a busy beaver, squirrelling money away and has totally spoiled and surprised me with a new computer chair. Oh wow – such luxury!! Leather, gas lift, padded, roller luxury! So much comfort. I feel very lucky. Brittany also was exceptionally generous with her birthday love, and bought me the most gorgeous dinner set ever. The eight place dinner set consists of an entrée plate, dinner plate, and deep bowls. It also has two serving platters that are just so sexy. I am SO very happy with this dinner set and cant wait to bring you lots of photos of divine food on it! 🙂

I was lucky to catch up with a friend for lunch at a the Henry Rous Tavern here in town. I had a chicken burger with mint garlic yoghurt sauce that was sublime. Really an awesome selection of flavours that although simple, really worked wonderfully. I may have had an apple cider or two with lunch which just went down so well on such a hot day. Later, the heat got the best of us and we ventured to a local beach for some fun in the surf. I thorougly enjoyed spending quality time with Joe as the huge waves pushed and pulled us every which direction.

I share my birthday with quite a few friends, and as is our custom the last several years, we go out for dinner at a mutually convenient time to celebrate Matt’s & my birthday (6th) and Joe’s birthday (13th). This year that day falls on a Wednesday, and we are going to a local Mexican restaurant. The choice of nights left me kinda free to enjoy something quick, easy and yummy at home tonight. Our shopping day isn’t for another day or two, and our fresh vegetable delivery isn’t until tomorrow so the cupboard is a little bare. Traditionally, we would have a vegetarian dish on Monday’s, but as there was some things defrosted in the fridge that didn’t get cooked last night, we decided this week meat free will be Tuesday. That left us to enjoy an old fashion fry up (another common dish that we rarely have due to my diabetes). Tonight’s dinner featured pork sausages with apple, sage and rosemary, onions, tomatoes and eggs. Such simple things that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Dessert was a little bit of cheating, as it was something I made last week for the murder mystery party (our actual birthday party) but have decided not to serve now, as they are a little fiddly to eat. Even given the difficulties in eating them and the messy fingers, they are delicious! The recipe for these frozen choc covered bananas is below.

Ingredients

½ cup cooking chocolate

½ cup smooth peanut butter

3 bananas cut into bite size pieces

desecrated coconut

toothpicks

Methods

  1. Create a double boiler by placing a metal bowl over a pot filled with boiling water. Keep the water on a slow simmer and melt the chocolate and peanut butter in the bowl until melted and running.
  2. Using a skewer to secure the banana, drizzle the chocolate mixture evenly over the banana pieces. Place it upright on a baking paper covered tray. Once all bananas are coated, you can sprinkle with coconut, insert a toothpick for easy handling later and freeze.

Observations

  • Be very very careful not to over heat the chocolate mixture, as the burnt taste will ruin your dish.
  • Try not to dip your banana directly into the chocolate, as it will make the banana difficult to handle.
  • As an experiment, I mixed the coconut into the chocolate for one batch. The one on the left is of that batch, while the one on the right is of the standard directions above. I think I actually like the coconut in the chocolate better!
  • It makes it a LOT easier if you use slightly under ripe bananas. Once they get ripe, they are softer, and much more difficult to work with.
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Pumpkin and Chicken Quesadillas

This is a variation of a recipe originally posted by one of my favourite foodies, The Gourmet Goddess. It was absolutely delicious, and Joe and I enjoyed it immensely.

Ingredients

Fillings

4 large (or 6 medium) Tortillas (We used the delicious wholemeal ones!)

2 chicken breasts

1/3   –   1/2 butternut pumpkin

1 Spanish onion

2 cups grated tasty cheese

2 cups grated mozzarella

Marinade

pinch of chili

teaspoon of garlic

juice of one lemon

a splash of oil

dash of maple syrup

Method

  1. Mix all items for the marinade in a small bowl. Cut your chicken into thin strips and put into the marinade and refrigerate for a few hours.
  2. Cut the pumpkin in bite size pieces and slice the onion into chunks. Separate the onion and place both the onion and pumpkin in a non stick oven dish. Sprinkle with a little oil, some garlic salt and some paprika. Cook in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes until the edges are just starting to brown. Allow to cool and mash using a fork.
  3. Fry your chicken strips in a pan. We use a grill pan for that awesome smoky flavour.
  4. In a bowl, mix the two cheeses together. Lay one tortilla on a chopping board (this will help you to move the tortilla into the pan later!) and sprinkle with some cheese mixture, but do not go right to the edge – leave a 3 cm edge as the cheese will melt. Add the cooled pumpkin / onion mash to your tortilla stack and press in some chicken before topping with even more cheese mixture. Top with another tortilla to form a sandwich. I would be tempted to add some fresh parsley at this stage, but I didn’t have any on hand.
  5. In a large frying pan  spray with cooking oil to the edges. (I used my large square electric frying pan cause it was the largest, easiest way of doing it!) Carefully slide your tortilla sandwich into the frying pan and cook until golden before performing a feat of strength by turning the tortilla over without it falling apart. Cook until brown, ensuring the cheese has melted to a gooey goodness.
  6. Slice your deliciousness into wedges and serve with some salsa and guacamole. Nom nom!
 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: