Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Softies for Mirabel

Do you like to make things? Have you heard about Softies for Mirabel?

It is a project where you make a soft toy and donate it to the Mirabel Foundation which provides support for kids who have been affected by a parent's drug addiction. I only just heard about it via Meet Me At Mike's; and I am not terribly good at making soft toys but I think I am going to have a go! How about you? You can also contribute to the Mirabel Foundation in other ways if that is better for you.

You can sign up for softie-ness here!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Flavour of the Week - Dulce de Leche Ripple

Dear Colleagues,

The latest iced delight to grace the ground floor freezer presents a puzzle.  One taste is enough to render the unsuspecting scooper dizzy, but it this because of the stupefyingly simple genius with which it fuses vanilla ice cream and smooth caramel sauce?  Or simply the precursor to an onrushing diabetic coma?  Why not both?  Enjoy, for as long as you can stay conscious, the golden swirls of lovingly home-made Dulce de Leche (“sweet of milk”).  This traditional Latin American confection, coupled with an already-sucrotic creamy-eggy frozen custard, is just the challenge that our nation’s dentists and insulin specialists have been preparing for. Don’t let them have planned in vain!

Dietary information: this ice cream contains milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, vodka and salt.

Yours recommending Dulce de Leche as a breakfast spread,

The Stressed Chef

Monday, September 27, 2010

Radical Homemakers - have you read it?

I'm reading it at the moment (on my iPad as an e-book, ironically but conveniently enough). I came across it mentioned on the Apron Stringz blog (which is awesome in itself) and have been working my way through it over the last week or so - I'm about two-thirds of the way through. It's incredibly thought provoking. I admit I picked it up, virtually speaking, because following the closure of my Etsy shop (which you can read about here) and entering into basically 100% full-time 'home duties' (as it was so lyrically put in my most recent mobile phone contract) I really, REALLY needed some reassurance that I am:

a.) Not lazy, and
b.) Making a valid and responsible lifestyle choice

particularly in light of the fact that many of the other mums in Pippin's local playgroup are heading back into the workforce.

And Radical Homemakers is reassuring - forcefully so - from that point of view. It is also quite an eye opener into some aspects of American consumer culture, although I am of course aware that the author has a particular view of the world and that this colours the way she represents that culture. I am just starting the section of the book which discusses the underlying 'how' of being a Radical Homemaker - the skills of nurturing relationships, redefining pleasure, rediscovering 'real food' (I think we do pretty well on that one already, honestly) and so on. I'm particularly looking forward to reading this section, I am sure it will be inspiring.

What I would also really like would be a book written about Australian Radical Homemakers... and to meet some... I would love to know if you have read it and what you think about it!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The BEST Tomato and Lentil Soup

Ever! I invented it the other night. I'm writing it down here a.) to share it and b.) to remember it! If you like tomato soup, especially one with lentils, give it a try!

olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
3 small handfuls green lentils (preferably French-type 'Puy' ones)
2 x 400g tins of diced tomatoes

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until soft. Add the herbs and fennel seeds and stir around for about a minute. Add the lentils and stir in the tinned tomatoes. Then add approximately two cans-full of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked - about 30 or 40 minutes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ruby Grapefruit Marmalade

Earlier this week I made ruby grapefruit marmalade based on the recipe for orange marmalade in Sally Wise's A Year in a Bottle - great book, so inspiring!

When I say 'based on' I mean that rather more loosely than I intended... not only did I substitute ruby grapefruit and their juice for the oranges and orange juice (which is fine according to the recipe) I forgot to put in a lemon (which is NOT fine according to the recipe).

I was rather cranky when I realised that I had forgotten the lemon because I thought it meant that the marmalade wouldn't set properly... it looked very runny. But what do you know - once it had thoroughly cooled it set just fine! So I am over my grump.

Gosh I love marmalade, making it AND especially eating it! Do you? This one tastes great. And it was so easy - you chop the fruit finely in the food processor so it doesn't take long at all.

My husband and I have had the ambition this year to make one preserve a month - we're a bit behind (although I cheated a little and made lavender sugar and cinnamon sugar one night, just to get us a bit up to speed! Ha!) but we're not doing too badly, which means we will have plenty of homemade goodies to all ready to hand out at Christmas time rather than making things in a bit of a rush at the last minute!

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Thrifty Storage Solution

Looking for a new storage solution for our dishwashing brushes and scourers and things, I hit upon what I think is an equally nifty and thrifty and nice-looking solution - a terracotta flower pot sitting on top of a random vintage saucer from my collection that has no matching cup!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A really useful site!

I discovered this site just the other day: I Op Therefore I Am - a collaborative blog about the joys of op-shopping in Melbourne!

Full of useful info about opening hours and locations... I'm definitely going to be referring to this one often! It will make it so much easier to make the most out of an op-shopping trip if I know there are several places to check out in a particular area!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Flavour of the Week: Chocolate Peanut Butternanza

 (The Stressed Chef is on a work trip to Washington DC - he took the picture above! - so this week's ice cream 
is as American-inspired as... well... chocolate peanut butter pie. 
Also, he has told me that thus far, his US ice cream experience has been mediocre compared with his own creations).

Dear Colleagues,

In a tribute to deliciously excessive Americana, this week’s ice cream takes a sumptuous cocoa-loaded cream and splodges a heaping wodge of enchantingly smooth peanut butter into it.  After vigorous and extended stirring of the arm-wrenchingly thick mixture, followed by a turn in the ice cream churn that almost gave the overburdened motor a nervous breakdown, the result is tasty enough to make intelligible speech challenging.  “Mmm” may be the best that you can do, particularly if you’re allergic and undergoing an almost-worthwhile bout of anaphylaxis.  The clearly labelled concoction can be had from the freezer downstairs.

Dietary information: this ice cream contains milk, cream, sugar, salt, cocoa, peanut butter.

Yours in allergen alert,

The Stressed Chef

Friday, September 17, 2010

Something Lovely

I am obsessed with apple cosies; they are so kind of pointless yet also so AWESOME. Although, I suppose they are kind of practical if you are carting your apples around in your handbag... At any rate, wouldn't you just love to snugly wrap up your fruit in one of these!!

Apple cosy by Beadles and Pins

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Not (Much) Cheating (I Hope)

Our iron died an unfortunate and violent death the other day. It took a plunge from the ironing board to the hard floor just as my husband was in the middle of ironing his shirt for work that day. Normally shirts get ironed on a Sunday night when we are over at my parents' house... this particular Sunday my parents came over here for dinner so shirts did not get ironed... a star-crossed turn of events and a real shame because that iron was very functional until it ended up slightly splattered on the floor.

Luckily my husband had a couple of casual shirts that were ironed, and no urgent meetings to attend which would require him to be properly dressed and suited up for a couple of days!

So, I thought about trying to locate a second hand one, but in the end I made a trip to the city to acquire a new iron. I feel a bit guilty, but I wasn't sure where to look for a second hand one, nor was there a great deal of leisure to look for it. I can't deny that buying a new iron was just more convenient than not. (In hindsight perhaps I should have gone to Savers first? Didn't think of that at the time though.) Hopefully though this one will last at least as long, if not longer, than the now-defunct one (which must have been about ten years old, I reckon).

Or maybe I should have gone looking for one of these?

 I was slightly comforted to know that Tif from Dottie Angel has had similar issues recently!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

This Week's Baking: Ciabatta

I made sourdough ciabatta for the first time this week. The process was a but different - the whole rise (apart from the last hour or so) was in the fridge,and prior to that the dough was stirred rather than kneaded - it was VERY wet dough.

My shaping left quite a bit to be desired, unfortunately. Only the middle one really looked like a proper loaf.

I cooked the loaves on the bottom shelf of the oven with Tennant's pizza stone under the tray and a water bath on the top rack. Not sure how much difference the water bath made (it's meant to made the crust crustier I think?) but the bottoms browner nicely! Sinceour oven heats from the bottom, though, the tops didn't colour at all in the short baking time (15 minutes). Luckily I came up with a solution - rearrange the racks and then put the loaves under the grill for five minutes or so until browner. It worked a treat.

The ciabatta was SO delicious. And check out those air holes!

I didn't intentionally cut it this way so it would look like a pair of lungs... These things happen to me sometimes.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Something Lovely

I spotted these round and about the streets near where I live...

...I think there's a third one as well but I couldn't remember where it was to go back and get a photo of it. I'm not sure who the 'happy bandit' is (it's not me) but I like his or her style!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Flavour of the Week: Raspberry-Vanilla

Dear Colleagues,

Australia’s most pressing political crisis came to an end this morning as Senator the Hon Walter Whippy declared he had the numbers to retain his position as Minister for Ice Cream.  While less-crucial negotiations over the national government continue between the ALP, Coalition and Independents, Senator Whippy said he had cobbled together an agreement to fuse Raspberry First and The Australian Vanilla Party into a unity flavour that promises stability and deliciousness.

The announcement is a disappointment for The Chocolates and the Citizens Coffee Council, whose efforts to form a mocha coalition foundered despite natural affinities amid a bitter dispute over who was tastier.  Sources close to Senator Whippy say that he rejected overtures from The Chocolates early on, fearing association with the Chocolates-dominated Neapolitan government of the 1970s.  The latter still evokes unhappy memories of waffle rationing and unauthorised attempts to borrow whipped cream from shadowy Middle Eastern financiers.

While Senator Whippy declares he will serve out a full term, independent observers expect the unity flavour (already ensconced in the ground floor freezer) to last for no more than a single litre.  Metaphor confusion has left insiders split on whether ambitious plans for sorbet reform are now on the front burner or whether they are to be put on ice.  However, a commitment to transparency is likely to be met, with full ingredient disclosure pledged by all sides.

Dietary information: this ice cream contains milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, vodka, raspberries.

PS some of last week’s unheralded-but-rather-nice cara gelato remains to be eaten too (cara juice and zest, milk, sugar).

Yours negotiatedly,

The Stressed Chef

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fathers' Day

This Sunday just past was Fathers' Day - Tennant's first! He has been working SO hard, so I got him a voucher for a relaxation massage, but then I wanted to get him something Pippin related as well. I decided to try making hand prints with Pippin.

Well. He was not so much of a fan of having his hands smooshed around in paint as I anticipated... And he cried... And wanted to smear his paint-y hands all over himself and me... But I managed to get them pressed onto sheets of paper instead, without too much collateral damage!

(I had high hopes of getting Pippin to draw something with some crayons as well, but that requires morer coordination and lessinterestbin stuffing everything in our mouth, apparently.)

So now Tennant can take Pippin's very first artwork and stick it up at his desk at work.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Something Lovely

This is one of my favourite photos of Pippin and Tennant, taken when Pippin was not very old at all... how tiny he was!

Today he is 10 months old! And growing up and changing every day. I love him to bits.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

This Week's Baking: Rye & Spelt Sourdough and Chocolate Cherry Cake

It's been a while since I did a baking post... I have been too sick to bake much over the last couple of weeks - we even had to buy bread from the market the other weekend, which we haven't done for ages! And then I thought my sourdough starter might have died... It was looking very sorry for itself in the fridge... But I took it out and gave it some love (and flour and water) and it has perked right back up and is still doing its job beautifully. Thank goodness!

Today I made a rye and spelt sourdough. Here it is on the rise in its tin:

This dough was a dream to knead, not too sticky at all. Drives me bananas when the dough is super sticky, especially because I am not always as organised as I should be and then I have to go hunting for my bench scraper with dough all over my hands, etc etc. I do try to remember my mise en place but I get a bit carried away sometimes.

It's not been super warm and in fact has been raining steadily for most of the day, so the dough rose relatively slowly. I'm pretty happy with the way I rolled and shaped it to fit the tin this time; I need a lot more practice (and maybe to watch some instructional videos) to get my shaping right!

I wish I could share with you how nice this bread made the kitchen smell on this rainy, rainy day! I had some trouble getting it out of the tin to check it for doneness, unfortunately... The bottom stuck even though I thought I had greased it thoroughly. Oh well.

Last night I made a chocolate cake for dessert (seeing as dinner was a pot roast that didn't require any last minute preparation - have I mentioned how much I love my slow cooker?? I must write a post in praise of it sometime) from my husband's Ultimate Encyclopaedia of Chocolate: the Chocolate Cherry Polenta Cake.

It's quite a nice cake and relatively easy to make as well. I don't normally choose recipes that involve beating egg whites and folding them into a mixture because that sounds intimidating. It wasn't too hard though, but I think the cake turned out a bit flatter and denser than it was supposed to because I didn't fold the egg whites in delicately enough. Anyone have any handy hints for how to do this properly??

The cake tastes good, but I prefer the Nigella Lawson chocolate brownies for sheer chocolatey indulgence! But this cake was a good way to use up some glacé cherries that have been lurking in the pantry for goodness knows how long (although glacé cherries are so scarily artificial that they could probably survive almost indefinitely. There's something slightly addictive about them though don't you think?).