Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What I Did 365 - Day 217

I don't know if I've mentioned this already (Ha. Ha-ha.) but I'm a huge Master Chef fan! It's actually the only TV show that I watch via the actual TV. It all started last year with Season 2. Having never seen Season 1 (as we didn't have TV reception the year before) I tuned in and my mind was blown! I honestly credit Master Chef with my enthusiasm for cooking and trying new things. Last Season, Marion was my absolute favourite because she did crazy things like put fish sauce in a dessert and got away with it. I was devastated when she left the show! So a couple of weeks ago I was pretty stoked when, trotting the aisles at Spud Shed, I stumbled upon Marion's much-anticipated packet meal range! I know I said, like, 5-ish posts ago that I'm a food snob, and I don't use packet mixes or meals. Well, for Marion I was willing to make an exception. I'll be doing a proper review later but basically - this ain't just a packet meal base kids. All the ingredients are real, and instead of the usual packet of flavoury dusty stuff that comes standard with packet meal bases, she includes a sachet of actual herbs and spices, including a couple of whole chillies. Mmmm it was delicious AND easy to prepare! I did take lots of pics of the process so once I'm all caught up with my 365s (ha!) I'll be sure to post that review.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What I Did 365 - Day 216

Besties and floating teacups... how could a Sunday be more perfect?? After Paradox, Kat and I raced to pick up Hatti and then we headed into Claremont for an afternoon of chilling and eating. We are so, so good at those things! We hit up the new Grill'd in Claremont (we're nothing if not original in our food choices) and then sat at Koko Black sipping hot chocolates and forcing down decadent mouthfuls of chocolatey desserts. Wow. I have to get back there soon! It was a really really really really excellent afternoon... Our friendship is built on honesty and accountability, that's for sure! Sometimes we have fun together, and I'm like *happy sigh* "I LOVE those girls!" And then sometimes we catch up and I just come away going "I freaking freaking freaking LOVE THOSE GIRLS." I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I am so incredibly blessed to have these two. I think everyone needs that couple of friends that they just connect to so deeply that it's impossible to even fathom a future without them. For all of our differences and quirks, we need each other. How great is that??

On another exciting note, I successfully parallel parked, basically for the first time ever that afternoon! Uh-mazing!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What I Did 365 - Day 215

No, this fun little Ikea trick hasn't gotten old yet! Its novelty factor is only just beginning! On this Saturday, I spent most of the day having a girls' day with my Mum and sisters!! We went to Tiamo in Nedlands for breakfast, attempted to check out the Claremont shops for all of two minutes, and then decided to head to Ikea for something random and fun. And it was random and fun! Steph demonstrated the old adage that you will always find her in the kitchen at parties (and on that note - I haven't seen that Ikea ad on lately. Have you? I kind of... miss it.) We oohed and aahed over the displays, and battled the crowds. Steph had her heart broken by a plush broccoli, and I scored a magazine rack for our bedroom because I'm a giant magazine hoarder! It was a seriously fun day! I loved it! My family are definitely top notch. As is Ikea, when you're not spending $2,000 at a time on pieces of kitchen.

What I Did 365 - Day 214

Over the last few Fridays at work, we've been mixing it up a bit with all-staff lunches overlooking the site where our new ride will be, and after-work drinks. It's a really good way to end the week. This is Felipe, my crazy Brazilian work friend, enjoying the pizza we had a couple of weeks ago at the staff lunch. For this occasion I baked my famous and deliciously gooey chocolate brownies... but alas! They were overshadowed by a chocolatey birthday cake for one of our maintenance guys! Oh well. More brownies for me!

What I Did 365 - Day 213

Thanks to Master Chef, I'm a massive fan of Adriano Zumbo! The man has mad skills. For those who don't watch Master Chef, he appears on the show from time to time with various crazy dessert challenges that the contestants have to participate in. His creations strike fear in the hearts of all who have to participate in his challenges. He's insanely brilliant, and very cool in my eyes! So anyway, my lucky sisters went to Melbourne and Sydney a couple of weeks ago, and although they didn't bring me back Adriano himself (pout) they brought me the next best thing - a macaron purchased from his patisserie! I like to believe that Adriano's hands themselves crafted my tasty treat, so please don't try and convince me otherwise! It happened to be the first ever macaron I've ever eaten in my entire life... the bar has been set pretty high! AND... how cute is the little box that it came in!!?! Love!

Friday, June 24, 2011

What I Did 365 - Day 212

Guy Sebastian has been accompanying me to work lately. Isn't that nice? Even though he's very busy and has places to go, people to see, he takes the time to sing me all the acoustic versions of his greatest hits as I drive to work in the morning, and again when I drive home at the end of the day. Ha. OK. You got me. It's a CD. I wasn't sure that you would recognise it, seeing as it's apparently just another form of outdated, obsolete technology these days. I happen to love CDs. My car is filled with them - well, burnt copies anyway. I have too many friends who've had their amazing original CD collections stolen from their cars. Lame. Anyway, it's  been a lot lovelier listening to Guy every day rather than tuning into breakfast radio. Ugh.

What I Did 365 - Day 211

Snuggly Tuesday. It's been cold around here lately, and our new tiles are obviously proving to be a little bit much for our boys. I keep glimpsing Cupcake curled up on the rug at our entry-way! I think he's a little bit cute... when he's not shrieking at us for food and/or attention. *wink wink* But seriously, I do love our boys! They make us laugh daily. And they are oh-so-snuggly during the cold nights, so we always have leg/lap warmers readily available when we're watching Master Chef in our chilly living room! Dogs. They are so multi-functional.

I Miss Being A Muso.

If you've only met me in the last 4-ish years or so, you probably don't realise this but my background is that of a serious muso. Like a large percentage of the population, I did the obligatory piano lessons from primary school, and once I hit high school I dabbled in guitar before landing a music scholarship and the opportunity to study the trombone. Yep, the trombone. And I was damn good at it. My life revolved around music - I was in every high school band, as well as the WA Youth Orchestra Philharmonic. And when I wasn't at rehearsal or in a lesson, I was still banging away on the piano. I fell in love with writing music in late high school. I wrote a piece for our senior school concert, and at our first rehearsal, when I sat down at the school's grand piano and played the first chord, accompanied by the various string players, clarinet, flute and vocalists I had enlisted to play with me... I almost wept. There were tears pricking my eyes because I had the utter privilege of hearing every part of my arrangement come together - without the assistance of my faithful 6-track midi keyboard. A few years later, I even got to do some post-high school study in writing and recording with ProTools through the then-brand-new Mount Pleasant Baptist Community College. It was the most fun I'd had in a long time.

Fast forward to today and I don't actually touch any musical instrument. Even the hobby of singing which I took up to fill the musical void when I stopped playing has fallen by the way-side. Today I (finally) started listening to Sleeping At Last's Yearbook Project (3 new recorded songs each month for a year). The album so far takes my breath away - I think their music is pretty special. Just listening to the album from the point of view of someone who knows the process of song writing, I was pretty floored. And my heart just started yearning. Not particularly just to write songs again, but to bring my music back somehow. It makes me pretty ashamed that I went from being such a music nut, to being bland and passionless in my pursuit of playing. Sure, every couple of months or so I'll have a tinker on the keyboard and try to remember how to play something, but that usually ends as quickly as it starts.

I'm not sure where to start with all this, but something needs to change. Because I seriously miss being a muso.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What I Did 365 - Day 210

Sweet lemon tart with a raspberry coulis! For lack of a better word, drooooollllll. Monday, June 7 was a public holiday for WA, and the only public holiday (other than Christmas Day) that my work closes for. Yippee! I celebrated the occasion by introducing Kat and Hatti to the fun of the new kitchen, luncheon style!!! We enjoyed a creamy chicken and vegetable soup with warm rolls, and the dessert above. Simple and nice. I do enjoy cooking for people that I love - I just don't do it often enough!

What I Did 365 - Day 209

Frown. Pout. I've done it again. I've gone 2+ weeks without posting my 365s, and my silly little mind is all in a dither. Here's what I remember about this Sunday, 2 weeks ago: I pulled my spice jars out of every nook and cranny of my pantry, and assembled them in an as-yet empty cupboard in my kitchen. In alphabetical order. Ha - I'm just kidding. But that would be amazing! I love having them all so easy to get to. I'm big on cooking from scratch, building flavours myself... snobby stuff like that. It's not cost-effective, but it makes me feel good! This means that I have loads of spices, and am constantly needing to buy more as I try new recipes. In theory, I should probably find something to store behind my rows of spices, and make the most of all my storage space. But for now, the above cupboard is exclusively reserved for spices. And herbs. Don't forget the herbs.

On a side note, why don't Americans pronounce the 'h' in herbs? Fascinating.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Kitchen-Warming Presents...

It's official. The loan we took out for the kitchen is all spent. Which is OK, because the kitchen is almost finished anyway. Whew! Now that our savings account is officially battered and torn, it's time to stop spending... and start dreaming about all the kitchen-warming pressies I get to look forward to. Right guys? Right?

Ha. I'm just kidding.

But if I had the spare dollars to gift myself with a couple of goodies for my new kitchen, here's what I would get...

This adorable Dorothy Apron
(I actually saw Elsie wearing this apron on her blog in 2007 and I've loved it ever since... Major fan moment, I know.)

This too-sweet-to-be-true cake stand from Jeanette Zeis Ceramics

KitchenAid Mixer in Ice (or Empire Red, or Pistachio, or Tangerine, or Yellow Pepper, or Boysenberry. I'm not fussy, really!)

Food Fashion Friends by Fleur Wood

These stunning latte bowls from Anthropologie

Pretty pretty serving spoons from Hard To Find

This perfectly polka-dotty Mix and Munch Cutlery set from Modcloth

These funky striped paper straws from Hey Yoyo

This perfect frying pan from Emerald & Ella

This elegant flour scoop from Beehive Kitchenware

And finally, Mr Adriano Zumbo. He would be a most excellent addition to my kitchen - for macaron-baking purposes! [picture source]

Monday, June 6, 2011

I've Been Blogged About!

I love Kat!
And I love her 30 Day Blog Challenge, in which she honours someone important in her life each day for 30 days.
And I love that today, her post was dedicated to Hatti and me. Yay us!
And she's right, you know. We are so normal.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Epic Chicken Salad with Oregano Croutons

Hello friends! I'm really excited to be posting my very first recipe on this blog. It's pretty fitting as it's also the first meal I cooked in my new kitchen this week! This chicken salad sure ain't rocket science, but it is freaking tasty, and that's the kind of food I want growing in my kitchen.

Start by crumbing your chicken - you'll want to slice a chicken breast in half to make it thinner (or you know, into multiple thin slices if you're a noob at slicing chicken like I am). You'll also want a plate filled with flour, another plate filled with fresh homemade breadcrumbs, and a shallow bowl with one beaten egg in it:

The reason that I prefer to make my own breadcrumbs is just because they give the chicken such a yummy texture! To make mine, I just ripped up 3 slices of bread and threw them in my mini food processor with a handful of parsley and about 1/8 cup of parmesan. Perfect and tasty.

Now what we want to do is follow these three steps:
1. Coat a piece of chicken with flour
2. Dip it in the egg (make sure it's covered with egg, letting excess drip off)
3. Coat with breadcrumbs
Repeat this for all of your chicken, and lay the pieces out on a baking tray covered with baking paper.

Sexy, if you're into raw chicken...
Stick your tray into a pre-heated 190 degree celsius oven (that's about 375F, non-metric friends!) Bake your chicken for about half an hour, or until cooked all the way through, flipping once about halfway through. Chances are it's not going to be super crispy, but that's OK. If you want it to be crispy, you can shallow-fry it in a pan, but I love how juicy and tender it gets in the oven.

While your chicken's baking, prep your croutons. Take a couple of those little warm-at-home rolls and slice them up as thick or thin as you want.

Get another oven tray, cover it with baking paper, and drizzle it with olive oil. I used garlic-infused olive oil for extra flavour. This step is important as it stops the croutons drying out super quickly, and adds a bit of flavour.
Next, spread out your slices of bread in a single layer on the tray. Spray them with olive oil spray, and sprinkle on dried oregano.
Set your tray aside and throw in the oven when the chicken has about 7-10 mins left.
Now you can prepare your salad. I used some mixed lettuces, red capsicum, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and sliced radishes.
Heat a small amount of oil in a pan and pan-fry a couple of big mushrooms on medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, seasoning with salt and pepper halfway through.
And while the mushrooms are pan-frying and everything else is in the oven you can make your vinaigrette. Combine 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard (I used roasted tomato mustard) and 1 teaspoon of caster cugar in a small jug. Mix like crazy until it's cloudy-coloured. You could also combine the ingredients in a jar, seal it and shake it all up until it's cloudy. Up to you.
By now everything should be ready! Slice up your chicken, and build your seriously delicious salad! Drizzle with the vinaigrette and top with a mushroom. Major deliciousness.
This recipe was enough for 2 very hungry people, but could probably be stretched a bit further, especially if it's being served as an appetiser or a side.
If you want a properly laid-out recipe, here you go!

Epic Chicken Salad with Oregano Croutons

2 chicken breasts, sliced in half
1 egg
1/2 cup plain flour
3 slices of lightly toasted/stale bread
1/8 cup of parmesan
Small handful of parsley
3-4 warm-at-home bread rolls, sliced
1 tbs garlic-infused olive oil
2 tbs dried oregano
Mixed lettuce
1 red capsicum, sliced
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 lebanese cucumber, sliced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
2 large flat mushrooms, peeled, stalks removed
Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs white win vinegar
1 tbs wholegrain mustard
1 tsp caster cugar


Preheat oven to 190C / 375F.

For the crumbed chicken
1. Place bread, parmesan and parsley in a food processor. Process until finely crumbed. Pour crumbs onto a large plate.
2. Pour flour onto a large plate. Coat chicken pieces with flour.
3. Crack egg into a shallow bowl. Beat lightly. Dip chicken pieces in egg, coating completely. Allow excess egg to drip off.
4. Coat chicken with bread crumbs.
5. Place chicken pieces on baking tray lined with baking paper.
6. Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through, flipping once.
7. When chicken is cooked, cut into thin slices.

For the oregano croutons
1. Prepare baking tray by covering with baking paper and drizzling with garlic-infused olive oil.
2. Place sliced bread on tray in a single layer.
3. Spray with olive oil.
4. Sprinkle oregano evenly on croutons.
5. Set aside; place in oven when chicken is 7-10 minutes away from being done. Bake until golden and crunchy.

For the salad
1. Combine lettuce, capsicum, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and radishes in a large bowl.

For the mushrooms
1.  Spray a frying pan with olive oil and bring to medium heat
2. Fry mushrooms for 3-4 minutes on each side, seasoning with salt and pepper halfway through
3. Keep warm until salad is ready to be served.

For the vinaigrette
1. Combine the olive oil, white wine vinegar, wholegrain mustard and caster sugar in a small jug
2. Mix thoroughly until all ingredients are combined (mixture should be cloudy).

To serve
Place salad on plates. Top with slices of chicken, followed by croutons. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Place mushroom on top. Serve immediately.

What I Did 365 - Day 208

Vegemite on fresh white ploughman's bread. One of life's greatest delights. Sigh. Grocery shopping today meant coming home with the freshest of fresh breads, and after prepping a pot of chicken stock and leaving it bubbling away on the stove (oh, the smell. Heaven.) I attacked that bread and smothered it with olive oil spread and vegemite. I can't believe the majority of Americans don't love vegemite. In fact, I swear I heard a rumour that it's now an illegal substance in the US!? Odd. Even my half-American half-Australian husband can't stand vegemite, which means all the more for me in our little household. Yum. I love vegemite. It's super duper. And now I'm craving it again... Om nom nom.

What I Did 365 - Day 207

Cooking geek alert! Last night was the ultimate reward for reaching the (almost) end of the kitchen renovation - I did the weekly meal plan and shopping list, for the first time in about a month! Eeeeeeee! I've been teased for the fact that I plan our meals all in advance for the week. Also as you can see, my shopping list is a little bit over-the-top organised, with headings such as Fruit/Veg, Cold, Other Foods, etc. Ha. I lack organisation in a lot of areas, but in things that excite me (such as cooking), I'm actually kind of amazing. Sometimes when I'm particularly happy about all my planned meals and the exciting meals I'm going to cook, I'll read it all out to Chris. I don't think he really listens, but it's fun for me to verbally express my excitement through a means other than talking to myself like a crazy person. This week's menu plan is pretty killer, with a bunch of new recipes to try as well as a couple of favourites thrown in. Yay cooking! I'm so in my element in the kitchen!

What I Did 365 - Day 206

Have I mentioned lately that I have a brand new kitchen? Ha. Despite my fear of growing tiresome, I've opted to post yet another kitchen-related story. On Thursday night we went out to Ikea and picked up our new dining table and chairs (oh how I can't wait to assemble them!) We made it home in record time, which was lucky because I desperately needed to bake, for two reasons:
a) I had a work BBQ the next day and wanted to contribute something yummy and sweet
b) I seriously missed baking sooooo much! (I hadn't baked in months because my old oven door was broken and didn't seal properly. Despite the copious amounts of gaffer tape we tried to secure it with.)
Excellent excellent reasons, no? I pulled out my/Bakerella's trusty old Cowgirl Cookie recipe, and away I went! It was so much fun, and so very satisfying that for the first time since moving out of home, I could set the oven temperature to the temperature recommended by the recipe (previously I've always had to go 20 degrees higher to account for my dodgy old oven) AND the cookies were baked in the exact amount of time that the recipe said they would be (rather than double the time, another little quirk of my dodgy old oven)! They were super yummy cookies too - my work friends loved them, and I feel like I should probably bake for them a lot more often!

What I Did 365 - Day 205

Cinnamon toast and tea - as prepared on my brand new kitchen bench. And thus marks the return to normalcy. It was such a pleasure to get up on Wednesday morning and prepare breakfast! No microwave on the floor. No toaster up on a dirty trestle table. No trekking into the living room to collect a plate, knife and mug. It was all there at my finger tips, and it felt blissfully simple. In my books, that's an excellent way to start the day! I've been having breakfast at my parents' most days over the last couple of weeks, on my trips over there to drop off the dogs each day. Don't get me wrong, I've loved chilling at my parents' before work and indulging in buttery fruit toast and hot coffee while chatting with my Mum. But it's nice to be at home too, flicking through Facebook between sips of tea on the couch. Mmmmm.

What I Did 365 - Day 204

 And finally, some evidence! I'll do a proper 'before and after' post at some point when it's all completely finished, but for now this will have to do. So this is half of my kitchen - complete sexy, right? Sometimes when I walk past, I end up just stopping and staring. Thank goodness kitchens don't have legal rights. You can perv for as long as you want without upsetting anyone. There's still some work to do - namely the splash back! No, I don't want the crumbling concrete backdrop that we're currently sporting, as rustic as it is. Anyway. On Tuesday everything was installed and ready to use. My parents had dinner with us, and we even heated up the lasagne that my Mum made, as well as the garlic bread, in our actual oven!!!! I officially have a functioning kitchen - I'm a very happy girl. Very happy indeed.

What I Did 365 - Day 203

...and this is where things got exciting!!!! On Monday, while I answered phones and sent emails at work, things were happening at home. Biiiiig things. Our kitchen installation guy was earning his money!!!! Chris sent me some amazing progress pictures, but he wanted me to get home and see the finished product for myself. I walked in the front door, he took my handbag and then held his hands in front of my eyes as he guided me into the kitchen. And... wow. It was just a whole new room. A fantastic, massive room - filled with loads of storage, miles of bench space, and shiny new appliances. It was so strange, seeing all our months of planning and purchasing come together! Seriously cool. It didn't even feel like our house - it felt like I was standing in a freaking Ikea showroom! Haha. It's Saturday now, and I'm still not use to it yet! But I love it.
I naturally wanted to get straight into shifting our things out of boxes and into cupboards, but most of the cupboards were out of action because the electrical installation for the appliances was happening the next day. But I did get to load up the cutlery drawer! Yay!

What I Did 365 - Day 202

Tehehe. It's not often my boy pulls on cover-alls, so I had to take advantage of the situation and photograph him! Chris spent Sunday crawling through our roof space and playing with cables under the guiding eye of my Dad. Because new ovens don't cable themselves! It also happened to pour with rain later that evening, which was just super lovely (aside from the copious amounts of mud we then tracked all over our tiles)! It was my last kitchen-less weekend... I wish I could remember more about the day but the last week has just been a blur! Yet another good reason for me to keep on top of posting more regularly.