Sunday, September 30, 2012

Life Lately...

Just thought I'd check in with some photos of life lately! I'm proud to say that I'm slowly working through my 4 Simple Goals - you've already seen me post some recipes that I've created, which is something I've never really done before! And now, here's the evidence that I'm taking loads more photos. So, life lately... according to my iPhone.

Grant Norsworthy (of Paul Colman Trio and Sonic Flood!!) came to do a workshop and service with our Church last week, and I was lucky enough to sing in his band for the weekend! It's been a long time since I was so intensely involved in anything musical - there were a lot of hours of rehearsing! Hard work, but a great experience and I feel super lucky to have had the chance!!
Hanson were also in town last weekend! I fulfilled every dream I had as an 11-year-old girl and went along with Kat and screamed out the words to every song. No shame. It was AMAZING.
Dinner with Kat, a bestie! Hanson wouldn't have been nearly as fun without her... and the hilarious drunk girl behind us who kept shouting "THAT'S SUCH A GREAT SHIRT" at Taylor Hanson. It was a great shirt.
Chris, the creepy man I do life with, who won't let me take sneaky photos of him without pulling some  ridiculous faces...
An occasion worth photographing - Chris cooked me chicken saltimbocca for dinner when I was tired after a long day at work. He's lovely!
Cupcake tries to make the most of chilly mornings and evenings when he realises that the days are getting warmer and snuggling is getting much less comfortable. (Yes, we are those gross people who let their dogs jump on the bed in the morning.)
Green eggs and ham at The Precinct this morning with another amazing bestie, Hatti. Kicking myself for not taking her photo. Where are my priorities?! Apparently with fancy toast baskets, spinach foam and tiny milk bottles. Hmph.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Whole Mushroom Quiche

Ladies, does the man in your life throw a tanty if you so much as threaten to serve him a quiche? Glory be, mine doesn't! But a lot of men that I know won't have a bar of it.
Why? Is it too eggy?
Is it too light?
Is it smelly, or in any way untasty?
If this phenomenon is unfamiliar to you, listen in. You are about to be shocked and appalled. The reason that a lot of men don't like quiche is because it is allegedly un-manly. That's right, there are men out there who willingly deprive themselves of its eggy, bacony, pastry-y goodness because it has a pansy-sounding name. I have a friend who single-handedly fixed her problem with the fussy men in her life by making a quiche and declaring it simply to be an "eggy bake". And with that, the guys were cured of their quiche issues. People, this is real life. Quiche is delicious. If you are a man who denies himself the pleasure of quiche based on this principle, you are missing out. And people are laughing at you. OK, that's a bit harsh. Nobody's laughing at you.

I said, I'm not laughing at you. I just smile when I type.

Anyway, here's a quiche recipe that's slightly manlier than the average. Why? Because it's filled with a layer of great honkin' field mushrooms, that's why. Check it out (before I added the egg mixture):

Yep, those are mushrooms alright! And salty prosciutto. And fresh chives. Mmmmm.

About 15 minutes after I took the photos for this blog post, Cupcake got stung by a bee and had an anaphylactic reaction. Puppy with throat spasms, $200 emergency vet bill, cold mushroom quiche for dinner. Quite the Wednesday night. This happened last week. It's clearly still a bit fresh for me. Anywho.

Whole Mushroom Quiche

Olive oil spray
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
2 tbsp butter
6-7 large mushrooms (field, portobello, etc), stalks removed
50g prosciutto, roughly chopped (or cooked bacon)
1/4 cup chives, finely chopped
6 eggs
3/4 cup thickened cream
1/4 cup milk
40g finely grated pecorino (parmesan would work well too)

1. Preheat your oven to 180 C.
2. Spray a quiche dish lightly with olive oil. Lay the pastry down as a base.
3. Melt butter in a skillet. Toss mushrooms in butter until they have softened and flattened a bit. Set aside to cool.
4. Sprinkle prosciutto over pastry. Combine eggs, cream and milk in a mixing bowl. Whisk until completely combined.
5. Once mushrooms have cooled (you don't want them pre-cooking the eggs!) place them in a single layer on top of the pastry. Scatter chives all over the top. Pour egg mixture evenly into the dish. It doesn't matter if some of the mushroom sticks out - I think it adds to the rustic charm of the dish! That's my excuse, anyway.
6. Sprinkle with pecorino, crack some black pepper over the top and place it in the oven. Bake for about 30-40 mins, or until the middle is set.

And there you have it. Chunky, slightly manlier quiche!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Monday Morning At Perth City Farm

Get ready to be totally jealous of me... at the moment, I don't work Mondays. While most people are getting into the week at work, I'm out conquering the world! Just kidding. My Mum and I have a standing coffee & grocery shopping outing that we stick by each week, which I love *smile*. But sometimes, Monday is also Adventure Day. Or at least it is when my sister Hannah is added to the mix. She and I have many things in common, but there are some things in which we're polar opposites - our day-to-day lives being right up there at that end of the scale! While I'm the sister who's chosen to form a quiet life in a 3-bedroom house with a big yard in a suburb 45 minutes away from the city, she resides in a super cute 2-bedroom town house right in the heart of the CBD. So when it comes to socialising, while my mindscape takes me as far as the same four cafes on the Rockingham foreshore, my savvy sister hardly visits the same place twice! Hanging out with her and my Mum on a Monday is always an opportunity for me to discover yet another amazing hidden gem in Perth. This week it was Perth City Farm - a huge community garden with the loveliest little cafe. We sat there drinking fancy tea and nibbling on macarons and muffins, surrounded by nasturtiums, potato plants and mulberry trees. Perfect! I couldn't help but take a few pictures around the place (remember, I'm trying to take loads more photos you guys!) If you live in Perth, you should definitely check it out. They also do venue hire - totally fun venue for a wedding reception!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Baked Maple Chicken with Pecan and Prosciutto Crumble

Do you like savoury dishes that have sweetness to them? Recently some friends and I were discussing this, and the general consensus was that savoury food + sweetness = most excellent indeed! I did have one friend who passionately disagreed though, so I understand that such people exist... but man, they are missing ouuuuut! With this in mind, I decided to put together one such dish - it's got the subtle sweetness of maple syrup infused throughout, but the salty prosciutto in the crumb topping cuts right through it. YUM. O. Serve this with beans and roasted baby carrots and you have a winner! Just don't get so excited about cooking this dandy chicken that you forget to stick your baby carrots in the oven until the chicken's almost done. You'll throw your timing off... trust me. Ahem.

Baked Maple Chicken with Pecan and Prosciutto Crumble

3 chicken breasts
1/4 cup plain flour
50g butter
1/4 cup maple syrup

Crumb Topping
40g butter, chilled, chopped up
1/3 cup plain flour
1/2 cup crumbled pecans
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp brown sugar
80g prosciutto, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 180 C.
2. Cut chicken breasts in half to create thin fillets. Place flour on a plate. Rub each fillet in the flour to coat. Place chicken in a single layer inside a large rectangular baking dish.
3. Combine maple syrup and butter in a small saucepan on low heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted. Remove from heat; brush maple syrup mixture over chicken to coat, reserving a few tablespoons. Bake for 30 minutes, or until chicken is just cooked.
4. Meanwhile, prepare crumb topping. Combine butter and flour in a medium bowl. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles a fine crumb. Alternatively, place butter and flour in a small food processor and pulse until crumbs are formed. Combine with crumbled pecans, breadcrumbs, sugar and prosciutto.
5. When chicken comes out of the oven, sprinkle crumb topping all over the top. Lightly press crumbs into the chicken. Drizzle remaining maple syrup mixture over the top and season with salt and pepper. Return to oven; bake for another 15-20 minutes or until prosciutto is crispy.
6. Serve with roasted baby carrots and steamed green beans.

Enjoy, my friends!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Claim It Back!

Want to know something that I've always had a bee in my bonnet about? It bugs me how easy it is for my week days to revolve completely around my job. Don't get me wrong - I love my job! I work in an amazing office, with amazing people (including my husband... totally not biased at all), AND I happen to really enjoy crunching numbers all day - take that every maths teacher I ever had! Did you guys know I failed maths in year 12? I didn't even go to my TEE exam because I'd already failed the course. And now I work with numbers and spreadsheets all flippin' day. Life hey?
ANYWAY. I work for 8 hours a day - that's one third of my day, yes? (Maths, my friend). Then I spend roughly another third of my day sleeping, more or less. And that last third? That should be my time - but how easily it becomes focused on the day I've just had at work, or the day I'm about to have at work. How easy it is to get home from work and spend the night on the couch, recovering from a day at the office. How easy it is to wake up as late as possible in the morning, then rush to get ready for work. And suddenly, work isn't just taking that one-third of the day... it's consuming a whole other third of the day that should be mine! That's 8 hours that I'm not getting paid for, and I am all for claiming it back. And that can happen with the smallest things - getting up an hour early on a sunny morning and doing some laundry, reading something good with a hot beverage, going for a run, making pancakes from scratch, playing piano - these sound like lovely weekend activities, but why not enjoy them on week days too? And after work - what about doing some gardening and soaking up the last couple of hours of sunshine, going out for coffee with a friend after dinner, writing a story, making a special dessert, or doing some craft? Maybe it's just because it's Spring, but I'm feeling ultra-inspired lately!

One of my mini-goals for September is to get back into running, and yesterday was day 1... it was the first time in a very long time that I've gotten up well before I've needed to for work, and it was difficult but good! The air was cold and burned my lungs every time I inhaled, and I'm so unfit that I could only run in bursts, but it felt amazing. I got home, I made eggs for breakfast, I washed my hair, I checked my favourite blogs and THEN I started thinking about getting ready for work. By the time I walked into the office at 8.45, it didn't feel like I was just starting my day - it felt like I was hours into it. I felt good all day - imagine if every day were like that! (All these pics are from my run by the way... Kwinana is pretty in the mornings!)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Roasted Red Capsicum Risotto with Feta and Pancetta

Isn't the power of smell crazy!? Today when I was roasting the capsicums for this recipe, I was bombarded with the most amazing feelings - a combination of Christmas dinner at my friend Pauline's house with some special lady-friends, the moment I bought these gorgeous shoes, and cruisey Summer nights spent with the front door open and the sea breeze sweeping through our home. One of my favourite things to cook in the Summer is roasted capsicum bruschetta, and to me, the scent of roasting capsicum is laced with these amazing memories. Smell is a powerful thing!

Speaking of roasting capsicums, for this recipe you need to roast and peel your own capsicums! Which might sound like a huge extra step, but it's not. Here's how simple:

Step 1: Put halved raw capsicums under your grill/broiler:

Step 2: Grill until the skin is blackened:

You'll know they're roasted enough when you can pinch the skin and it starts to lift off. Then you just refrigerate them in a snap lock bag/bowl with plastic wrap, and once they're cool you can just pull that skin right off! I roasted and refrigerated them when I had a free 10 minutes this afternoon, so they were nice and cool by the time I got around to peeling them. Now we've got that little cooking how-to covered...

Roasted Red Capsicum Risotto with Feta and Pancetta

1 litre salt-reduced chicken stock (I make my own, but you don't have to, obviously!!)
1 tsp crushed garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
3x red capsicums, halved, roasted and peeled
1/4 cup pine nuts, roasted
150g pancetta, thinly sliced
1.5 cups arborio rice
100g baby spinach
100g soft feta, crumbled (my fave is Danish, which you can purchase by weight at the Woolworths Deli!)
1/3 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped
Extra feta and baby basil leaves, to garnish

1. Place stock, garlic and 2 cups cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a simmer, then reduce heat to low.
2. Meanwhile, place one third of the roasted capsicum (two halves) in a food processor with pine nuts. Process until it resembles a chunky paste. Thinly slice remaining capsicum.
3. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook until slightly crispy. Remove from pan and set aside.
4. Heat remaining oil in pan. Add rice. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes or until coated. Add 1/3 cup stock mixture. Cook, stirring, until mixture has absorbed. Repeat with remaining stock mixture (1/3 cup at a time) until rice is tender. Stir in pancetta, sliced capsicum, capsicum paste and baby spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute or until heated through. Remove from heat, stir in crumbled feta and chopped basil. Serve garnished with extra feta and baby basil leaves.

Note: the feta brings a lot of salt to this meal, so always opt for salt-reduced stock if using store-bought.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

4 Simple Goals (before 2013)

It's been a super duper long time since I was last typing away on this little corner of the internet! For whatever reason, I let blogging fall by the way-side. This year has been one of my least inspiring of late, in some ways. Coincidence? Probably not! I've stopped making creative goals - any goals, for that matter. I've been a scattered mess! But lately I've been waking up and feeling the urge to kick things back into gear. And this morning, Elsie Larson invited me to do just that with her 4 Simple Goals (before 2013) So here it goes...

(on a side note, I'm horrified that I've deigned to put this photo up... since losing Picnik, the free online photo editing software, I'm at a loss with my photo editing. *cry*)

1. Be more intentional with my friendships: Guys, I'm in a rut. When I was single, I had this massive group of friends and we had a lot of fun. Then Chris and I got married, moved suburbs and moved churches, and for a while we had a community of people who lived near us that we could do life with. Then we moved back to our old church, and we're stuck in this limbo of needing to get to know people again. When you're married, it's easy to fall in the pattern of just hanging out together when you go out, but then one day you wake up and realise that you only have a small handful of friends. Friends are important!!

2. Take loads more photos: Pretty self-explanatory really! There are thousands of moments that have passed this year, that I wish I had photos of. We all take photos of the big things, but the day-to-day stuff, the little things that bring a smile to my face, are often lost and forgotten. Lame!

3. Be a recipe creator, not a recipe follower: One of my "one of these days" goals in life is to write a cook book... or, you know, lots of cook books! Also, I've always intended to be a food blogger. I have lots of ideas for new and exciting recipes in my head, but when it comes to planning the weekly meals on a Sunday night, I generally just go through my exploding recipe file, rather than planning out something of my own. So I'm *tentatively* going to commit to creating one new recipe each week, AND blogging it!

4. Fall in love with craft again: You know what I love? Pinterest! So many inspiring ideas. If there's an amazing DIY out there, you can be sure it's collecting digital dust in my Pinterest DIY Board. I have a whole craft room at my disposal, and the thing has become a dumping ground for every bit of junk we've collected over the last 3.5 years of marriage. While I don't have any crazy dreams of re-opening my Etsy shop, I do want to start doing some craft again, for me. And our home. And hey, maybe for gifts or something.

So there you have it! 4 Simple Goals that I'm hoping to start working towards achieving before 2013. Spring has just rolled around and it's the perfect time to start feeling inspired, so I'm encouraging you to set your own goals too! I'll check in and let you know how things are going on my end every once in a while.