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April 2012
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June 2012

I Don't Care If You Are Called The Rare Miss Frigidaire.

'Cause you're sensational. Yesterday I defrosted the freezer. I don't like this job, and I put it off. The freezer was mainly filled with a bag of ice and things in ziplock bags. I don't know what some of them were or how long they had been there. I saved the raspberries for a cake I made today. Other than that everything else went.

This icy place
Peri and Gilly thought the bag of ice ice-cubes was the best thing since sliced bread. It kept them amused for ages. PicMonkey has added a collage tool. I haven't quite mastered it yet, but I am feeling very happy to have a selection of collage options again.

Icy pups

On Friday MrsValley and I went to the Greek Restaurant further up the river. The day was reasonably OK when we started out. We had Arni Yarni Lamb pot pie, Pumpkin and Feta tart and then semolina custard tart with lemon syrup. We spent almost three hours catching up and having a good chat. The pictures are poor, I think the lens was fogged up. Everything was absolutely delicious.

Lunching
The weather was not. It started raining as we left and there was a huge downpour that lasted for more than a day. There were roadworks and gravel and it was all a little scary. I drove at 60kph but there were people who wanted to do the 100kph speed limit. The council hasn't cleared the drains of Autumn leaves around our suburb, so there were deep puddles across the roads. There were minor floods: a hospital, roads near MrsDrWho's school and in the south of the city. It stopped raining last night and we have some sunshine today.

MrsValley bought The Labradors a lovely treat. Blackmores have a pet division now and she chose some special kangaroo treats. They are perfect for Peri and Gilly: low in fat, easy to break into small pieces and according to them, the Best Treats Ever!! Picture from the Blackmores' site, and we have the Labrador packet of course!!!

Treats
I sewed a goanna bag and I am working on my next felt project. Semi-secretly.

Sewing
I've also been wearing my beret, trying it out to see if I like it around the house before it debuts in public!!

Wearing my beret
All my Library book Christmases came at once and I sat on the couch reading while the rain poured down endlessly. I couldn't read all of I am David because of the sad part at the almost end. I read either side of the sad part. Rose Levy's book has some wonderful and unusual cakes and I want to bake quite a few. It's hard to find a new series of books to read. I listened to Radio National when they had their broadcast from the Sydney Writers Festival and jotted down a few names. I always scan the book section of Saturday's paper. I use the 'recently added' button (well, you organise by most recent date) on The Library site and keep an eye on authors I already follow. I long to find authors I haven't read who have a long book list for me to enjoy!!

I have new dog walking shoes. The shop says they were $60, but they were on super sale for $10. I think the khaki and pink colour scheme may have put some people off. I'm deciding which shoe laces work best.

Walk a mile in my shoes
My aqua shoes with a velcro closure stopped staying closed. They weren't cheap shoes and I was a bit cross. The lady at the shop where I bought them told me that the shoe repair man could replace the velcro. He did, it's black not white, but you can't see it and it only cost $18. An excellent price and I have a 'new' pair of Winter shoes now!!

Zoe and her family are on The Mainland now and Zoe will be having her bone marrow transplant tomorrow. There's a long hard road ahead for them all. Lucy has not been well, her health is deteriorating. I keep them in my thoughts.  One of Uncle and Auntie Dutch's dog died last week. Tommy was a lovely boy, a boy's boy, and he could be a bit of a grump too. He was fourteen which is a good age.  Poppy, the other dog, seems to be coping by herself.

Later on this week I am going to The Hospital to participate in a session with the doctors in training. I'm going to talk to them about my illness, let them do some observations and then answer any questions they have. I'm not sure how it will go, but they are sending me taxi vouchers so I don't have to worry about looking for a parking space. I'm very happy about that!!


Friday Food: Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells

The recipe is from the Winter 2012 Family Circle. I was able to find some large pasta shells in the posh deli, but they were only 6-7cm long I am pretty sure the ones in the magazine were truly giant and at least twice as big. I was grateful for what I found!!

Other than that, the ingredients are staples. I would have liked more of the tomato sauce, but that's just me. I like tomatoes.

I have re-ordered the instructions, as when I followed theirs I had to do some boring waiting for the zucchini to cool.

I made half the recipe and it filled 24 shells, each with a heaped teaspoon of the mixture. The whole recipe would have made 48, a huge amount I think to serve four people. I rather think this is a side dish and so I ate mine with some baked chicken. It would be nice with a lemony* green salad too.

 

Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells    serves 4

  • 2 tbspn olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 600g zucchini, trimmed, peeled and grated
  • 400g giant pasta shells
  • 800g tin chopped tomatoes
  • pinch caster sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 400g piece of fresh ricotta
  • zest of a lemon
  • 100g Parmesan cheese, grated

 

Zucchinis in bikinis
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the grated zucchini and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Place in a sieve and press out the excess moisture. Set aside to cool.

Cook the pasta
Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water. Cook for 6-7 minutes. The pasta I bought said to cook it for 13 minutes, so I think you should cook whichever pasta you have for half the recommended time. Drain in a colander and rinse twice in cold water. The pasta should all be cold. Separate if necessary and set aside.

Tomato sauce
Make the tomato sauce by putting the remaining oil and garlic in a pan over a medium heat and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and sugar and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes. The sauce will thicken. Pour into the base of a large baking dish or casserole. Mine is 24 x 24 cm.

Now preheat the oven to 210*C (190*C fan forced).

Ricotta filling
Beat the ricotta with a fork or spoon until it is smooth and then add the lemon zest and half of the parmesan cheese and mix well again. Fold in the zucchini.

Mix, fill, top,  

Stuff each pasta shell with a heaped teaspoon of the ricotta mixture and place on the bed of tomato sauce. Top with the remaining half of the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The pasta will be golden and the sauce bubbling.

Serve immediately. I added a little more pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Delicious!!

Pasta with ricotta filling

* I believe I think almost every dish can be improved with the addition of lemon!!!!


By George, I Think I've Got It!!!

And by it I mean a dress that pretty much fits and looks nice when I wear it!! I saw Michelle from Buttontree Lane sew the Simplicity Amazing Fit 2247 dress and I thought I might give it a go too: patterns were half price, and the material only cost $14. I like the material because it looks, to me, a little WWII and suits the pattern.

I overestimated my size again, though I think the instructions are misleading. I think you should cut for your high and not full bust size. Still, I did sew the dress up first with the seams on the outside so I could more easily adjust and fit them myself.

There are still a few things I'd like to fix: the puffy sleeves (though MrsDrWho likes them, is she just messing with me??), the front bodice needs to be taken up about 2cm at the shoulders. I always have forward shoulder seams and as I am definitely going to be sewing this dress again I want to add 2 or 3 cm to the front shoulder seam and take it away from the back seam.

I inserted a zip by hand again, but really this dress doesn't need one, I can easily get it on and off without one. I enjoy hand picking the zip, and it is much easier than using the zipper foot on my machine, which isn't terribly helpful.

On the whole, I am very pleased: I had my nice beaded sandals to match and my new Short Scene cardigan matched perfectly too. And off I went to Afternoon Tea with my knitting friends!!!

Amazing fit 2247
I did have not-a-very-good go at cleaning the mirror, and of course my lovely Labrador assistants assisted me!!!

I've been lucky enough to win two prizes of late. MrsDrWho and I went to a Trivia Night with some of her colleagues and we won!! It's a nice bottle of wine and some Lindt chocolate. I already have several nice bottles of wine I received as Christmas presents that haven't been opened and I can't eat the chocolate so MrsDrWho has two prizes!!!

Prize

I didn't know I had entered Cyndi's competition, but I left a comment won a prize!! She sent me some really interesting Kanzashi flower makers. Reading the back of the packet I know it is a traditional Japanese fabric folding art, but I think of them as a kind of flowery Suffolk Puff makers. I am looking forward to be-flowering quite a few things!! She also sent some beautiful fabric, and every piece of the set has green in it, and some cuter than cute tiny 2 1/2 inch charm square packs!!

A prize

Noah the dog and Wilson the cat sent Peri and Gilly some dog biscuits. They were so very kind as to send vegetable biscuits so that they can have one almost every day and not worry about F A T.

Labrador treats
Peri has been eating her breakfast and dinner at a higher level than Gilly. She's very clever to balance and eat quickly at the same time!!

Peri dines on the step
Lorelai Gilmore has rediscovered an old toy and so there has been a big gumboot clomping about inside, and out!! She is experiencing gumboot bliss!!!

Gilly and her gumboot
And after giving in and finally fixing the cuff of my mittens, I found the rest of the ball I had carefully put away, and so I unravelled the cuff for a third time and now it is finished. Except the mittens are so grubby after our walk. I can't believe how grubby they are!! It's been dull and rainy today so no chance for washing and drying them before tomorrow. I'll wash them tomorrow and they will have until Thursday to dry.

Grubby mark II mitten cuff fix

I am hoping nothing very much happens this week because MrsValley and I are driving of the city a little for lunch on Friday. I want to rest up and prepare. In saying that, I've had series 2 of Sherlock here since before MrsDrWho went away to Singapore. We think we'll rest Due South and watch some Sherlock one night this week. Maybe I'll sew some more cute hexagons for April's Craftsy blocks and maybe we'll sew May's blocks before June!!!


Friday Food: Basic Chocolate Cake

This cake recipe is from the June BH&G magazine. The recipe in the magazine is incomplete. It doesn't say what to do with some of the ingredients and whether to add them or not. I used my initiative and the cake was fine. On TV last night they showed the cake being made and my instincts were correct. I do wonder though, that the man used his mix master to beat in the dry ingredients and chocolate/cocoa. I always fold them in gently by hand to make the cake as light as possible.

This is a very good cake. It smells nice and chocolaty and tastes great.

I had no golden caster sugar, so I substituted 1/2 cup of the caster sugar for brown sugar. I used hazelnut meal instead of almond meal. Note that there are two amounts of butter: one for melting with chocolate and one for creaming with the sugar.

On TV they showed the cake with a chocolate ganache topping, vanilla frosting and fresh berries and then as a layered cake filled with coffee frosting and grated chocolate.

 

Basic Chocolate Cake  serves 10-12

  • 200g good dark chocolate, chopped
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 2/3 cup very hot water
  • 1 1/2 cups raw or golden caster sugar
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tspn vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • cream and extra grated chocolate to serve (I used a Flake)

Preheat the oven to 160*C and grease and line a 23cm cake tin. My tin was not very high so I made sure the baking paper extended above the rim.

Melt the chocolate and 75g of butter either in the microwave or in a glass bowl over a pan of just simmering water. Just before it is properly melted, remove from the heat and stir till smooth and combined. Set aside to cool.

Mix the cocoa and hot water till smooth and allow to cool as well.

Melt, mix, lineCream the remain butter and sugar of your choice until it is pale, light and creamy. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl, you can see in the picture the original colour of the mixture before it was creamed.

Mix, cream, beat
Add the eggs one by one and the vanilla extract and then beat only till combined.

Eggs and whip
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and almond meal. In a medium bowl fold in the creamed butter mixture and then add the cooled melted chocolate and butter and the cocoa.

Sift and mix all in
Spoon into the tin and smooth the top. Bake for 1 hour 5 minutes. Check it a little earlier as it is quite chocolaty and will easily catch on the bottom. It is cooked when a skewer pushed into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Combine, tin, bakeLeave in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn the cake out onto a rack until it is completely cool.

Then serve and enjoy.Basic chocolate cake


Run, Peri, Run.

The Hydro is laying pipes across the park at the dam where we walk. Peri and Gilly have had to have their leads on so they don't run into the path of the digger. On Saturday it was all quiet and so they could have a lovely run.

Gilly ran:

Gilly on the run
And Peri ran. Away. For ten minutes we couldn't find her. I knew where she was. She was up the hill near the smelly things. Gilly and I drove to the gate and back and parped the horn. Peri was waiting at the spot where the car was parked and came running to us.

Peri ran away
She ran so fast I didn't have time to get out of the car before she arrived!! I didn't worry that she wouldn't come back, but I thought she might have been caught on a branch or some wire by her collar, or have hurt herself. She just had awfully smelly, muddy feet.

Peri's back
It's been reasonably quiet here, although there was a bit of a stir in the neighbourhood when the new people over the road lit a fire in their garden. The smoke was very bad, I couldn't even see over the road. My washing, and the knitting that was blocking, smelled smoky and there was ash all over the car and yard. Luckily it was a bonfire of wet vegetation rather than a dangerous fire.

There's fire
He did come over later on and apologise, but I think we've all checked the Fire regulations and next time we'll ring the Fire Brigade instead of dithering for half an hour.

Where there's smoke

That's the roof of our house and the smoke wafting high up into the sky.

Whilst doing nothing very energetic I have managed to finish my Short Scene cardigan, which fits, and find some very good buttons. I think finding buttons is the hardest part of knitting a cardigan.

Short Scene 2011 Short scene  the wearing with peri

There's a new hot water bottle cover, and a repaired cuff on my mittens and the Dexter Haven Hat.

What I have done, these three lately

The beret is finished, I just need to sew in two ends. I am hoping it looks OK. Hats don't suit me, I don't know why. I finished the Secret Knitting for MrsDrWho as well.

The weather has been both very cold and quite warm: the other morning it was 1*C when we went for a walk, but today it was 18*C and I went out in a Summer skirt and top. Peri and Gilly are enjoying the not too hot Autumn sun. Gilly has been feeling quite well, though I watch her like a hawk and try to discourage mad beserker-bonkers running in the backyard.

Pups in a blanket
I've made about five batches of Lemon Meringue Cupcakes recently. These were for the doctors and nurses at The Animal Medical Centre. They look after Peri and Miss Lorelai Gilmore so well!!

Lemon meringue cup cakes
So basically, we're having a lazy time here: resting, lying on the couch with a hot water bottle and a quilt, taking a book and a cup of tea outside in the afternoon to enjoy the sun.  I'm saving up my energy for an outing to Afternoon Tea on Sunday. There may, or may not, be a new dress. Only time will tell!!!


Friday Food: Chilli Beef Soup

It's all about the soup here.  Autumn is the perfect time for sipping a spicy rich broth. if you don't actually read the recipe before you decide to cook the soup, then you won't realise it needs 2 1/2 hours in a slow oven. So, this is a soup to simmer away all afternoon and eat for tea with some crusty bread. There's hardly any actual hands on cooking and it mostly potters along all by itself.

I used hot dried chilli rather than mild chilli powder: some like it hot. You can leave out the cannellini beans if you are so inclined. I was not.

I don't have a casserole that can cook on the stove top and then go into the oven, so I had to use a saucepan and then I transferred it to a 3 litre casserole dish. 

 

Chilli Beef Soup   serves 4

  • 1 tbspn olive oil
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • 250g stewing steak (chuck or blade) diced
  • 2 tspn mild chilli powder (or 1 tspn hot chilli flakes)
  • 1/2 tspn ground cumin
  • 400g tin diced tomatoes
  • 5 cups beef stock
  • 350g pumpkin, chopped into 1cm cubes
  • 1 tbspn balsamic vinegar
  • 400g tin cannellini beans
  • parsley for decoration if you will

 

Preheat oven to 150*C (130 fan forced)

Onions and garlic
Heat the oil in your chosen pan to medium and fry the onion and garlic, stirring for 5 minutes to soften.

Steak and onions
Increase the heat to high and add the beef, stirring and cooking for 5 minutes more.

Add the cumin and chilli and fry off for a further 2 minutes.

Spice and stock
Now add the stock, tomatoes, pumpkin,

Pumpkinand balsamic vinegar.

Balsamic and into the oven
Bring to the boil and then the soup goes into the oven for 2- 2 1/2 hours. Cover the top loosely with baking paper or foil. When the beef is tender, add the beans and a heat for 5-10 minutes more.

Cook and beans
Season to taste and serve. This spicy soup freezes well and it is easy to double the recipe. It is a hearty soup and reasonably inexpensive.

 Soup


Friday Food: Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup

I felt the need for something vegetable-y, and the Winter Family Circle has some great vegetable and soup recipes. This soup is delectable and cheap. It cost 27 cents for the carrots and 32 cents for the lentils. I had coriander seeds, ground coriander and stock and just bought some sour cream and crusty bread. It's about 50 cents a serve I think. (I did have to buy a kilo of carrots and 375g of lentils)

I don't have a mortar and pestle so I just crushed the cooked coriander seeds with the back of a spoon. It was very easy.

This recipe serves two and it only took 35 minutes to prepare and cook. The recipe could be doubled or tripled and it would freeze very well.

 

Spicy Carrot and Lentil Soup  serves 2

  • 300 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup (60g) split red lentils, rinsed
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tspn ground coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste (I didn't add any)
  • 1/4 tspn coriander seeds
  • 2 tbspn sour cream
  • crusty bread, to serve

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over a high heat.

Peel and top and tail the carrots. Chop roughly and add to the stock with the lentils and ground coriander.

Carrot and lentils
Bring the stock back to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes, until the carrots are soft.

Stock,  blend
Blend the soup until it is smooth and return it to the pan to keep hot.

Meanwhile, cook the coriander seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Crush and set aside.

Cook coriander seeds and crush
Serve with a spoonful of sour cream, a sprinkle of the crushed coriander seeds and some crusty bread.

Carrot and lentil soup


1 2 3 4: my5

Flybuys is a card with a points system that used to be for saving up your frequent flyer points. Now it has been relaunched by Coles, with Dawn French, and they implore people to choose their 5 favourite items and get 10% off.  But in some ads, and only on half their promotional material, you find that you must spend $50. It does say you save 10% on the products of your choice, but then the tiny, tiny print says you choose from their special 800 product list. The things I would like buy are not on their list. What a surprise.

I think I shall not really be 1 2 3 4 my5-ing thank you very much.

The new Knitty Surprises have been released and lots of lovely people pointed me to something very appropriate.  I am knitting it for MrsDrWho's birthday and although she doesn't read my blog all the time, I am making a clicky link so you can see what I am knitting and look at my project. I am almost at the border. It is something I could knit again, I am really enjoying it.

Short scene sleeve 1
The Short Scene sleeve Mark III has been very successful and I think I might just knit another. Two sleeves in a cardigan are better than one. Just one last sleeve to go, sewing the sleeves into the body and grafting the back of the neck and it is done. Hurray.

Lorelai Gilmore has been well. She has appreciated all the lovely comments and well wishes. The drugs are excellent and she has been as good as new. We finished the drugs today and so now it is a waiting game to see how she goes. My poor baby. She has loved being able to go for a walk again. She's most obedient and hops in the car when she is called. Peri doesn't always come straight away though:

Gilly looks for peri
But when she does, she zooms!!! (Courtesy of PicMonkey, a good Picnik replacement and they will soon have collages. Thank goodness)

Peri zooms
And then they both stand there, good as gold, ready for a treat.

Gilly and Peri in the car
Mohairmama  set up the Fingers and Toes display at The Craft and Quilt Fair. I went along to give some moral, and a little bit of actual, support. We had to leave A4 size spaces fr a piece of paper with a torso, arms and legs, but when MrsDrWho and I went along on Saturday, the paper wasn't there.  That's why the spacing is a little weird. People were voting for their favourite items.

Fingers and toes

We loved looking at all the quilts. I have decided I like the actual patchwork part and not so much the painted on fabric or just quilting on a plain-ish background. I bought a silicone thimble, some Labrador fabric and some 2ply Fern coloured mohair for a scarf (Dairing) Mr 'Dairing' was glad to talk to someone who knew about 'fibre'!! I was quite amused, I think a lot of scrapbooking people were asking him a lot of unanswerable questions. The Labrador fabric had a happy panting Peri, a little Gilly and I think a lovely Harki as well. MrsDrWho and I bought a Christmas embroidery pattern and she also acquired a rainbow jelly roll!! We had a cup of tea half way through our two hours, but I had to sleep for three hours when I came home and I had a tired-and-I-can't-sleep headache later on.I think I still need a little more recovery time.....

Craft fair
MrsDrWho lent me her second best iPad when she went away and I was not very good at anything apart for the Find the Hidden Object game and the Rise of Atlantis, which is like a big game of Connect 4 really. It eats up time. I would play a whole level and an hour or more would just disappear. The iPad has gone back home and I am sure it will have a much more varied and happy life!!

MrsDrWho and her sister chose some tea for me and she brought it back from her holiday. I have tea from Raffles and tea from the special tea company TWG. I have tried the peppermint, ginger and chamomile and tomorrow at morning tea we will try a new one. I also have the whole tea menu, with an authentic tea smudge, but it it too dark to take another photo now. There are at least twelve kinds of Earl Grey teas!!!

Tea from Singapore
Everything is so beautifully presented. I have some more presents to show next time. I am so lucky!!!

Weekend shanghai
Today Me-Made-May begins. I have really enjoyed all the Me-Made Marches and Self-Stitched Septembers, but May is just long sleeved t-shirt tops, a cardigan and jean month. Not very exciting really and nothing I can sew or knit in time. So, I recall a comment suggesting I should sew something this month instead. Maybe I will even finish my cardigan? So I shall try to under promise and over deliver!!!

Heston's roast potatoes
Heston's roast potatoes
?? Absolutely delicious: crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy in the centre. I made these again the next night. The new Family Circle Winter magazine is out and I am swooning over the recipes. I can't wait to make something for Friday Food this week!!