Monday, June 30, 2014

June wrap-up

June is over already here and it's winter - short, brisk days and long, frosty nights. Here's some of what we got up to this month:

Celebrated DP's birthday. The decoration was a joint effort - frosting from me, toy soldiers from Miss B. A very appropriate combo, as all who know him well will agree.

We had a long weekend, so headed to Sydney to continue our ongoing exploration. On the recommendation of one of Miss B's coaches, discovered the Chinese Garden of Friendship - a beautiful and tranquil oasis in the midst of bustling Darling Harbour.

Spotted this sign at a Darling Harbour waterfront restaurant. I assume they mean New England Clam Chowder, but that wouldn't be a recommendation here, since the Australian version of New England isn't really anywhere near the ocean.

Stumbled across the oldest hospital in Australia, smack in the middle of the CBD and still operational.

Went hunting for fruitbats in the Royal Botanic Gardens - they had apparently gone out for the day, but there were plenty of other sights to see. (Note the 'Welcome' sign, for which I have an enduring fondness - mainly because it says 'Please walk on the grass'.)

 A lovely view of the weather deteriorating over Sydney Harbour...

...with just enough time to examine 'A Folly for Mrs Macquarie' before the rains came.

The drive home on Monday alternated between sun and showers for most of the trip, and we saw something like seven rainbows. I managed to capture one (barely).

And last but not least, my latest blog find - Budget Bytes - which I've been binge-reading, lured in by the gateway recipe for Dragon Noodles. I liked it so much I made it twice in two days, substituting plain pasta noodles because I had some sitting in the fridge, and jazzing it up with some chopped celery and leftover steak. Better, cheaper, and quicker than takeout.

That's all from June - bring it on, July!

Monday, June 23, 2014

75 words*

Back in the old days of the internet (you know, 2007), I used to post on LiveJournal occasionally – mostly to keep up with goings-on of two of my sisters who were active there. Not long after, my whole family signed on to Facebook, and as a result I have barely logged on to LJ since. However, I still fondly remember one of the things we used to do regularly, which was to sum up our weekends' activities in 50 words or less (or 75 words or less if a lot had happened). So much so that I’m going to revive it here (note that this explanation doesn’t get included in the word count!).

My weekend, in 75 words or less**
Solo parenting. Friday movie night: tomato-rice soup in front of Frozen on DVD. Saturday: farmer’s market; lazy afternoon; popcorn; skype calls with Virtual Book Club (four work friends in four countries) and DP; raspberry puff pie in front of My Big Fat Greek Wedding on TV. Sunday: rainbow pancakes; Miss B’s afternoon out with family friends; dinner at ours: marinated goat cheese, minestrone, stuffed focaccia, triple chocolate brownies (more on these last 2 later!).

* Two posts in two days! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
** I had to go for 75 words in the end, despite starting this post thinking nothing much had happened!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Spaghetti all'amitriciana

Speaking of no brainers, compiling the list for my last post reminded me of one I haven’t talked about before – spaghetti all’amitriciana. It has five ingredients, it’s ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta, and it includes bacon. Win-win-win.

Spaghetti all’amitriciana

  1. Put on a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  2. Chop 8 rashers of bacon and put in skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until browned and crispy, stirring frequently.
  3. Chop 1 medium red onion and add to the skillet. Continue to stir the mixture frequently as the onion softens and browns.
  4. Add 1 jar (700 ml/28 oz) or equivalent of tomato passata to skillet and stir to combine with bacon and onion
  5. Once the water is boiling, salt generously and add 500 g/1 lb spaghetti or bucatini. Stir pasta and allow to return to a boil.
  6. While pasta is cooking, grate a good-sized heap of pecorino romano cheese (~120 g/4 oz/1 cup) into a bowl; also keep an eye on the sauce, stirring from time to time.
  7. Cook pasta 8-10 minutes until al dente. Drain, reserving about 120 ml/4 oz/.5 cup cooking water.
  8. Return pasta to hot pasta pot, then add sauce. (Most recipes suggest adding the pasta to the skillet, but I can’t do it that way without making a huge mess. Using the big pasta pot works much better for me.)
  9. Toss pasta and sauce to combine, adding generous amounts of grated cheese as you go. Add pasta water as necessary to help bring everything together.
  10. Taste and add salt and freshly ground black pepper if desired.
  11. Serve immediately, topped with more grated cheese.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

No brainers


Well, I tried to write a blog post about the latest developments at work, but it didn’t really come off. (Anything that makes DP flinch visibly is destined to oblivion in the ‘Drafts’ folder, I’m afraid.) So I’ll just say that the situation remains in flux, and that I’m taking it one day, task, project at a time. Working on maintaining my zen. You know.

It does use up a lot of a mental energy though, which has been sapping my cooking mojo of late. I haven’t mustered the energy to cook anything new for a good couple of weeks, and when I do my weekly meal plan (Saturday mornings, before heading into the farmers’ market), I have found myself relying almost exclusively on fallback recipes – the ones I barely have to think about, let alone look up recipes for. With two experimentation-wary eaters to feed, and 5-7 evening hours a week spent on work calls, I can’t spare the brain space.

Which got me thinking: I bet everyone has at least a few no-brainer recipes – the ones that you can essentially make in your sleep. What are yours? I’d love to know, if you’d be kind enough to share in the comments.

These are mine. It's a rare month when I don't cook most of these at least once anyway, and they've been in heavy rotation of late, both for ease and for comfort:

Pork: Italian bangers and mash (ie Italian sausages + Italian baked potatoes with oil)
Dessert: Blondies (aka Fudgey choc chip slice) | Browned butter chocolate chip cookies | Frosted cake/cupcakes (chocolate | vanilla) | Oat-fruit bars
Snacks: Popcorn | Salsa
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