Archive for March, 2011

>What do you do all day? Is a question I dread. When I am asked this question, I know the asker actually wants to know how I can justify my existence when I don’t go out to work, in order to earn money, in order to have my lovely lifestyle. Why do I get to have a lovely lifestyle, when ‘they’ do not?
A wise friend tells me not to feel bad, because the askers of this question are simply jealous. While I’m sure she is right (and she has a similar lifestyle to mine) – the question still makes me cringe. How am I supposed to respond? And, more importantly – why, WHY do I feel I have to justify myself?
We have made choices, Rick and I, that enable us to live the way we do. Choices and circumstances have lead to this way of life. We chose to not have children. A choice for which we have been criticised. I have been told I have a small life because I don’t have kids (thank you, old friend).
I didn’t leave my job – the one I loved – it left me, and in no shape to get another. Rick works all the hours God sends – and then some – in a job he loves and at which he is very,very good. I help him all I can. If I could figure a way to force him to relax, I might be happier with myself, but I guess I can’t have everything!
My health over the past few years has been pretty rubbish – though it’s getting better all the time (thank you, new friends, for the advice and encouragement).
The bottom line? I do have a good life. I know it, I am greatful every day. And – if I’m allowed to make a belated resolution for this year – I choose to not feel guilty for not working three jobs, when I simply don’t need to. I choose to not feel guilty, period.
For many years I have kept what is apparently called a ‘commonplace’ book. It is like a diary, but not really. My commonplace books (I have three so far) are simply notebooks in which I write quotes I find, pictures cut from magazines that appeal to me for some reason, passages from books I have read that have a special meaning for me. If you read my notebooks, you would know more about me and the way I think and feel – than if you actually met me! This is one of the quotes –

Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to give myself a gold star for being ordinary, and maybe one of these days I’ll give myself a gold star for being extraordinary – for persisting. And maybe one day I won’t need to have a star at all.  Sue Bender

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>I am a natural hermit

>I did the supermarketing today. Shopping is not really my thing. I know it is one of the most popular hobbies in the world… I don’t understand those people. I know some people who go to the mall and just wander around… I go through the mall at a speed so fast I blur…  So, a good day shopping – is a really good day.
I found this stuff

Gluten-free Soy Sauce!!! From the Supermarket!!! No more going out of my way to get the seriously expensive Tamari Sauce! Yay!
This next one is not from the supermarket. This is from a butcher/deli I go to. They are young people who run an old-fashioned style butcher shop, with personal service and top-quality produce – most of it organic, free-range and really good. I went for some meat and some Proper Crisps…. which are delicious, but they didn’t have any in stock (coming soon though). BUT, the did have these:
Kumara is sweet potato, and these are fab! Thank you Moreish – you guys rock!

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That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it! And, yes Percy really is that much bigger than Yoshi!

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>BBQ Scallops with Wasabi, Soy and Ginger

2 dozen scallops
1 cup gluten-free flour
1/2 cup instant polenta
2 eggs – beaten
1 tbsp lemon pepper seasoning
1/4 tsp wasabi paste
1 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
12 wooden skewers
fresh lemon wedges to serve

Mix soy sauce, ginger and wasabi together and set aside.

Mix the flour and lemon pepper together and set aside.
Put the polenta into another dish and set aside.

Skewer the scallops, using two skewers side-by-side for each kebab, 2 scallops per skewer. Skewering them this way makes it really easy to turn them over.
Roll the scallop skewers in flour mix, then dip into the egg, then roll in the polenta, patting the mixture onto the scallops.
Grill, bbq or fry for 2 minutes until the crumb mix is golden brown and crunchy.

Turn to grill the other side for 2 minutes.
Brush the top with the wasabi mix and serve with lemon wedges.

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>Facebook! Bah!!

>Am I the only Noddy in the world who can’t figure out how to make Facebook work? No-body laugh! I think I might just stick to Blogging.
We’re going out for dinner tonight. I have phoned the restaurant, they say they have one or two gluten-free options on the menu and please would I talk to the wait-staff when I order. Ok. But, how hard would it be to just put a small label on the gluten-free options?
I think I will end up eating steak and salad – usually the only thing I’m confident in ordering these days… but I WILL check.

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>I love Ina Garten. She is kind-of-like Nigella, only not as tall (or as annoying). I don’t own any of her books – I found out about her on Food TV, which is porn for people who cook, or eat – and is on a lot at our house, along with the Living channel, with occasional forays into Documentary and History… I haven’t watched much ‘real’ tv since Boston Legal finished…. This is a neat trick Ina taught me – for when you want to eat fried chicken, but you can’t buy it from the Colonel anymore, because what-the-hell do they put in that stuff??

Ina Garten’s Fried Chicken

Put chicken pieces into a bowl.
Schlop on some buttermilk. (Ina did not say schlop)
Leave in the fridge to marinate for as long as you need to.

Put some gluten-free flour (anything will do – I have even used instant polenta – gives an extra crunch)
Season it with whatever you want – garlic powder, onion powder, lemon-pepper, garlic salt, paprika, salt and pepper – make your own version of the ‘secret herbs and spices’.
Take the chook out of the marinade and roll it into the flour mix.
If you have time, put the coated chook back in the fridge – it helps the coating stick.
Ina recommends you fry the chicken till the coating is golden and crunchy – and then bake it in the oven till cooked through.
I’ve done that, and I’ve put the chook onto an oven tray, sprayed it with the oil-in-a-can stuff and then baked it.
It works both ways.
The buttermilk makes the chicken moist and tender. The coating is crunchy and good.

We fought over the left-overs

Next time I make this I’m going to cut the chicken into strips – I think they would be lovely nibbly things for when our friends come over for drinks etc.

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>One of the best things about Autumn is pumpkin. We love those little green buttercups – sometimes called Jap pumpkins. They’re sweet and dry. We try to buy heaps when they are cheap. We store them in our cool, dry garage so we can have them all winter.

Pumpkin Simmered in Soy

3/4 cup dashi stock
2 tbsp Tamari – check it is gluten-free (not all of them are)
1 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce (or just use another tbsp of Tamari)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sake
1/2 a small buttercup – peeled, seeded and chopped into bite-sized chunks

Put all ingredients except for pumpkin into a saucepan and simmer till slightly reduced.
Add the pumpkin and simmer until tender and the sauce is syrupy.
Serve hot with the sauce poured over.

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>Honey Bubble

>My nana taught me to bake. She cooked for 5 children and my pop in the tiniest kitchen you could imagine. There was just one work counter – a space not much bigger than your average computer desk. Today I have a huge kitchen, heaps of storage, heaps of counter space…. and I use a space not much bigger than…, well you get the idea. My younger sister and I would spend Saturday’s with nana. We would bake all the cakes and cookies for the next week. This recipe was a favourite in our family.

My mum wrote the recipe out for me

Honey Bubble

125g butter
125g sugar
2 dessertspoons honey
4 cups rice bubbles (make sure you get the gluten-free kind)

Put the butter, sugar and honey into a saucepan.
Bring to the boil and boil for 4 minutes.
Stir in rice bubbles.
Put mixture into a well-greased sponge roll tin – smooth the top (press firmly)
Cut before it is quite cold – it sets quickly and becomes brittle.

Sweet as!

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>I have two blogs.

>Since the original purpose of this blog was to save all my favourite recipes in a place that is easy to access, I decided to save my best recipes, the ones that contain gluten, in another blog. I figured that one day, I would have a go at converting them – using gluten-free grains. It is apparently easy enough to do, if the original recipe is written using grams or ounces (as opposed to cups).
One of our favourite puddings is called Fruit Roly Poly. Rich, short pastry rolled around a mixture of dried fruit and cooked in a sweet syrup until sticky. I decided to try and ‘translate’ the recipe using the ratios given in Shauna’s blog and post about Multi grain muffins…. you can guess what happens next can’t you?
I carefully measured my flour mix, added the butter and rubbed it in….

It didn’t take long at all to realise this wasn’t going to work as I expected…. My frugal nature made me decide to keep going and see what I ended up with…

It sort-of looked like a ‘normal’ one…
and the taste?… Well it is by no means disgusting…. I mean, I’ve made things that turned out worse… But, is it a keeper? Nope – not by a long shot! And of course it never was going to work out, because I wasn’t making MUFFINS!!! Sigh 
We’ll eat the rest, but we wont be serving it up to guests any time soon.
So, as a result, I’ve bitten the bullet and ordered a copy of Michael Ruhlman’s book about ratios. Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind The Craft of Everyday Cooking. I’m determined to get this right! And the best thing? Amazon.co.uk has free shipping to NZ if you place an order worth more than 25pounds (I can’t make my computer do the correct sign!) – easy peasy! No recipe this time… but, coming soon 🙂

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>On with the cooking. I’ve made risotto before, but only by baking it in the oven – no stirring stock in ladle-by-ladle for this girl….. Until now. I was in cruise-mode, wanted to take my time, make it last. I There was a little bit of fantasy involved too – I imagined myself doing this from a farm-house in Tuscany. I would love to live that kind of simple life, but here in NZ – I would love to visit Italy, but NZ is home.
 Of course I understand that the simple life is hard, hard work. But so is this life – not mine – I’m a stay-at-home mother of two cats for heaven’s sake, but I’m married to a man who is married to his job. This has its advantages  – it meant, when I was made redundant, that I didn’t have to get another job – and as my job had taken its toll on me (especially in the lead-up to redundancy), I chose not to.
I keep house for us, I do his paperwork, I try to make his life run as smooth as possible. But I worry about him. He works long hours. Even when he gets home he is still thinking about work. He works part of most weekend. When he’s not working, he sleeps (it’s called watching sport on tv). Last winter he had something of a melt-down. It was nearly the end for us, we survived, but I can see the pressure building up again and it worries me. It’s not good enough. I want more for him. I want different for him.
And since he doesn’t listen to me, the only thing I can do for him is cook something nice. He likes to eat nice food. This was nice.

Zucchini Risotto with Prawns

the white part of 1 leek – finely sliced
3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
300g arborio rice
1 wine-glass of dry white wine
1.5 litres of gluten free stock – I use the Massel brand – heated in a separate pot
1 medium-ish zucchini – thinly sliced into batons
80g parmesan, plus extra to serve – grated
50g butter

Heat some oil (about 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil) in a large pan.
Add the leek, garlic and rice and cook a couple of minutes, stirring to coat all the rice with oil
Add the glass of wine and stir until absorbed
Add the stock a ladleful at a time, allowing each to be absorbed before adding the next.
Continue, stirring until almost all the stock is gone.
With a couple of ladlesful to go, add the zucchini
Stir to combine and continue adding the stock until it is gone. This should all take between 15 and 20 minutes.
Add the butter and then the cheese.
Cover and keep warm

Stir fry some prawns in a non-stick pan over medium heat until opaque 3-4 minutes.
Serve the risotto topped with prawns and sprinkled with some extra parmesan.

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