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Practising the art of Procrastination

 

Today I heard from the recruitment coordinator that I have passed the first culling stage of applicants for the job I applied for a few weeks ago.  I also heard today that I have to complete my interview either today or tomorrow – considering I have to travel into the city for it, I opted for tomorrow … a bit crappy that they give an entire 24 hours notice, me thinks.  Oh well, tonight I’ve decided to fine-tune my understanding of the word “procrastination” and trying not to think about it, because I know when I do I’m going to get myself into a tangled stressed little knot and stuff up the interview tomorrow … the best interview I’ve ever done is one I went totally unprepared for and did everything off the cuff.  Not that I’ll be quite that bad tomorrow, but I’m seriously not going to do much prep whatsoever – I’d like the job, but I’m quite happy where I am on the whole, so I’m not stressing out if I don’t get it (and actually doubt that I will get it – perhaps another reason I’m not tying myself into knots!).  I guess one thing is that if they’re in a rush to complete all the interviews this week, that perhaps we’ll be put out of our miseries quickly too and get the results promptly … one thing I do know, though is … “que sera sera … whatever will be will be …” 😀

In the meantime I’ve been chasing away the wintry weather blues with a nice big pot of home-made Minestrone Soup … especially warming and inviting with 1 1/2 cups of red wine poured into it haha.  It is truly very rich, and truly very delicious, and a recipe I ended up having to copy for Mum ‘cos she loved it so much when she was here … I have to admit with all the cold weather we’ve been having this week it was perfect to come home to a pan of soup that just needed heating through, and will continue to keep me happy for the rest of the week! 😀

If anyone’s interested, here’s the recipe – along with a piccie of tonight’s dinner bowl:

MINESTRONE SOUP

Minestrone-Soup

1 cup dried kidney beans (I actually use tinned kidney beans instead)
3 rashers bacon (I sometimes omit totally and use a bit of olive oil instead – and sometimes I chop the bacon up and add to the soup after it’s cooked)
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
7 cups beef stock
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 small carrots, scraped and diced
½ cup courgettes, sliced
½ cup celery, chopped (including some of the leaves)
1 tablespoon dried basil
4 large tomatoes, peeled and seeded (this batch I cheated for the first time and used a tin of crushed tomatoes)
1 cup shredded cabbage
1½ cups red or white wine
½ cup macaroni or star pasta
salt and pepper
grated lemon rind
parsley
grated parmesan cheese

Soak the dried kidney beans in 2 cups water overnight.  In a large saucepan fry the bacon until crisp.  Remove the cracklings and reserve them (this is actually in the recipe, but nowhere in the recipe does it state what to do with them after they’ve been reserved … in fact it doesn’t say what to do with ANY of the bacon, so sometimes I plop them into a sandwich to make an old-fashioned British “Bacon Sarnie” and at other times I chop it up and leave it in the soup for some added goodness).  In the fat remaining in the saucepan gently fry the onions, coarsely chopped, until they are golden.  Add the beef stock to the onions, add the soaked and drained beans together with the crushed cloves of garlic.  Simmer beans gently for about an hour or until cooked (or obviously less if you’re using tinned kidney beans).

In another saucepan heat the olive oil and add the potatoes, peeled and diced, the carrots, scraped and diced, the courgettes, sliced, the celery including some of the leaves, chopped, and the dried basil.  Cook the vegetables for a few minutes, stir in the tomatoes, peeled and seeded, and the shredded cabbage.  Mix well.

Add the vegetables to the beans and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.  Stir in the wine and the macaroni or star-shaped pasta and cook a further 15 minutes.  Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle it with a mixture of grated lemon rind and chopped parsley.  Serve with grated parmesan cheese (truthfully I never bother with the lemon rind, parsley or parmesan cheese, as it’s rich enough without it).

Serves 10-12

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Cheese Crisps

As promised earlier, here is the recipe for Cheese Crisps:

Cheese-Crisps

1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
60g butter
2 teaspoons paprika

Filling:
1/2 cup grated havarti cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons cream
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil

Sift flour into bowl, stir in cheese.  Rub in butter, press mixture firmly together into a ball (or process all ingredients to form a ball, which is what I did).  Cover, refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll pastry between sheets of greaseproof paper until 3mm thick.  Cut 2 1/2 cm rounds from pastry, place onto lightly greased oven trays, sprinkle half the rounds with paprika.  Bake in moderately hot oven for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned; cool on trays.  Sandwich plain and paprika topped crisps with filling.

Filling: Stand cheese in bowl at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Beat in cream and basil, beat until smooth.  (In fact I blended my ingredients in a mini food processor, which ensured I got a nice smooth consistency with the basil flavour being distributed nice and evenly.)

Makes about 45

Orange Liqueur Chocolate Tartlets

As promised earlier, here is the recipe for these divine little morsels … a little bit fussy to make, but oh so worth it! 😀

Orange-Liqueur-Chocolate-Ta

1 1/4 cups (185g) plain flour
1/4 cup (25g) cocoa
125g cold butter, chopped
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon iced water, approx

Filling:
300ml thickened cream
1 2/3 cups (250g) White (chocolate) Melts
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon grated orange rind

Candied Rind:
1 medium (180g) orange
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) water

Sift flour and cocoa into bowl, rub in butter, add egg yolk and enough water to make ingredients cling together (or make pastry in processor, which is what I did).  Press dough into a ball, knead gently on lightly floured surface until smooth, cover; refrigerate 30 minutes.

Divide pastry in half.  Roll each half between sheets of baking paper until 1mm thick (mine were about 2mm thick ‘cos I’m obviously not an expert roller!!).  Cut pastry into 5cm fluted rounds, press rounds into 5 x 12 hole tiny tartlet trays (3 teaspoon capacity) (note I used mini muffin tins – so they didn’t sit as ‘flat’ as the recipe suggests, but they still held their shape well and held the filling beautifully).  Prick pastry bases with skewer; refrigerate 30 minutes.  Bake pastry cases in moderately hot oven (200-210C; 400-425F; Gas Mark 5) about 7 minutes or until crisp; cool.

Spoon filling into piping bag fitted with small star tube (which I couldn’t find, so I had to use a plain round piping nozzle).  Pipe filling into pastry cases; top with candied rind (which I didn’t bother with because a lot of people don’t like it).

Filling: Heat cream in small pan until boiling, pour over White chocolate Melts in bowl, stir until White Melts have melted.  Stir in liqueur and rind; refrigerate until firm.  Beat mixture with electric mixer until fluffy; do not over-beat (mixture should resemble whipped cream).

Candied Rind: Using a vegetable peeler, peel rind thinly from orange.  Cut rind into very thin strips.  Combine sugar and water in small pan, stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves.  Add rind, simmer, uncovered, about 5 minutes or until mixture is syrupy.  Remove rind from syrup, place on greased tray, separate strips of rind.

Makes about 60

(in my case because the pastry was rolled a little thicker, I managed to get 42 nicely, but then ran out of baking tins anyway!)

January Challenge – Day 3

I couldn’t resist putting a few more stitches into Shepherd’s Bush’s Baby Bug Ball this morning – I can’t believe how much I am in love with that design!  It is soooo not my normal choice of stitching project, but I absolutely and totally adore it!  I didn’t stitch the next few alphabet letters as it’s supposed to use a thread colour that is way too pale on the fabric – I thought I’d wait to see what colours were left over at the end, and I would replace that colour with one of the darker greens (but I don’t want to use it yet in case I run out!).  After the 15 days are up, this is is going to be one of the first getting revisited, I think! 😀

I was good, however, and didn’t continue stitching on BBB, and continued to meet the challenge goals by putting a few stitches into Victoria Sampler’s Crimson Fire Sampler.  This one is a major challenge for me, as it’s been forever since I stitched any hardanger or pulled/withdrawn thread stitches, so it will give the grey matter a run for its money this year!  I wanted to get this stitched up, though, so I can pass the chart on to an online pal who showed interest in it a couple of years ago (assuming she still wants it, of course!).

Seeing as I’ve handled pretty much all I can cope with today with these specialty stitches (probably thanks to the 3am finish this morning), I thought I’d put it to one side and pick up something simple, and I’m hoping to get a few more stitches put into the Autumn freebie by the Stitcherhood that I started late last year 🙂

Over the last few days I’ve also been working on a couple of my listed items on my 1001 things in 101 days – including putting together a custom recipe book.  I went with something simple, and just put together a ringbinder with plastic sleeves and subject dividers – that way when I find a scrummy recipe in one of my books I’ll re-type it up into a one-page format and will add it to my favourite recipes folder.  Seeing as I’m also trying to cook something out of every cookbook I own, hopefully I’ll also find some new favourites to help fill out the sections.  The great thing about this format is that I can take pages out individually to cook from, and the sleeves protect the recipe and can either be wiped down in case of spillage or just replaced with the recipe left intact 🙂

I think I may also try to make a quilted book-cover for this at some stage, but that may not be this year … the goal of putting the book together in the first place is good enough for me to tick this challenge off the list as “achieved”.

One of the latest recipes I added was some simple finger food sandwiches from the Aussie Women’s Weekly book “Finger Food” – these were wolfed down recently at our work’s shared morning tea … I thought I’d share the goodness with you here (AWW books are some of my absolute favourites on my bookshelf):

SMOKED SALMON, CAPER AND DILL TRIANGLES

Triangles can be made 2 hours ahead.  Storage: Covered in refrigerator.

200g packaged cream cheese
2 t lemon juice
1 T fresh dill sprigs
¼ t drained capers
12 slices white bread
180g sliced smoked salmon

Blend or process cheese, juice, dill and capers until well combined.  Spread 1 slice of bread with cheese mixture, top with a layer of salmon.

Spread a second slice of bread with cheese mixture, place cheese side down on salmon.  Spread top with cheese mixture, top with a layer of salmon.

Spread a third slice of bread with cheese mixture, place cheese side down on salmon.  Trim crusts from sandwich, cut into 8 triangles.  Repeat with remaining bread, cheese mixture and salmon.

Makes 32

Christmas has arrived … finally

Ever since my flatmate made a comment about my Christmas tree being up when her Mum was here visiting I just haven’t felt like putting decorations up, and definitely had the “bah humbug” feeling. On Friday night, though, I decided to put a few things out and decorated the lounge – a lot more understated than normal, and I have to say I think I really like it!

Because my flatmate is away for Christmas (she flew out today), we had Christmas morning early on Friday night and I refused to swap gifts until we at least had some sort of Christmas decorations up. I’m usually cracking the decoration boxes open on 1 December (or the closest weekend afterwards), so it’s really really unusual for me this year! Even when I lived on my own, I still had my own little tree and made myself a Christmas stocking each year – it seems a little silly, but I still bought myself a little chocolate bar and some nuts in their shells and popped a little baby bottle of champers in there (and for the first time ever something I’ve neglected to do for myself this year yet). I’m tossing up whether to approach a LNS next year and see if they will bundle up some surprise goodies from my wish list and then get someone to wrap them up for me so I can have something of a surprise in there – I was originally going to do my own 12 days of Christmas and parcel up 12 little items early in the year so I may have forgotten about them by Christmastime, but it’s not really the same, is it? haha.

Last year Katie said she was going to buying a white Christmas tree with black balls to put up this year, with a skull instead of an angel/star … sigh 😉 Let’s just say it hasn’t happened yet, and if it does happen next year then I will sit my own tree up in a different corner to be a bit more traditional!! Anyhoo, earlier in the year I found the most PERFECT gift for her … I was going to stitch her this chart and frame it up for her – I had my heart set on it, because it is just so “her” haha.  As you can see, it was the Christmas tree that made it think it was so perfect!

Unfortunately I’ve had various items back-ordered for over 3 months, and the Belle Soie threads that were sent along with my other parcel goodies an exact month ago still haven’t arrived – not to mention I was really unhappy with the fabric I ordered from NZ for it, so I ended up placing an extra order for the recommended fabric listed on the chart, and that was also on back order for a while. The fabric finally left about 1 1/2 weeks ago, but the first parcel is still AWOL, and there was no insurance on the parcel {{sigh}}. I’ll wait for another few weeks, then I’ll have to save up and re-order everything again, I guess 😦 I was then in a quandary as to what to buy my flatmate, but my heart was still set on this chart, so I ended up wrapping just the chart up and saying the real version would be coming whenever I can get it together.

To say Katie was over the moon with it is an understatement! She loved it so much she’s been taking photos of the chart and showing all her friends and family and can’t stop talking about haha. The great thing now, I guess, is that I can actually stitch it in the lounge without having to hide away, so she can watch it grow each week once I finally manage to get it started 🙂  I also gave her two Jared Padalecki movies on DVD to fill her horror quota for the year (Friday the 13th and Cry Wolf).

As for what I got, I was truly spoilt – I knew in advance what I was getting, but it made it not less thrilling – I got a ticket to see Tap Dogs next month with Katie, and we’re only a few rows from the front so we can drool over Adam Garcia without squinting haha.  I’ve always loved him in the movie Bootmen, which is so similar to Tap Dogs – if you haven’t seen it yet, I can definitely recommend it as a great Aussie drama/romance (but make sure the tissue box is handy) … love, love, love it! 😀

Today I actually started one of my 101 Things in 1001 Days – I’ve been playing with this list for the last month or so, and have finally published it live.  Seeing as I’ve started feeling a bit more positive over the last 48 hours, I’ve started making a move to see some of the goals happen. Today’s effort was in relation to #23 in the list, which is to make something out of every recipe book I own in Sydney – considering there are 130+ books, that’ll keep me busy for longer than the 1001 days, but it’ll be fun anyway!  Today’s recipe was from “Simple Delights: Coffee & Tea” book – and the chosen recipe was “Bonoffee  Coffee”.  Perhaps not the ‘best’ thing I’ve ever tasted, I have certainly enjoyed slurping it down this afternoon while I’ve been pottering around – here’s the full recipe if you’re interested:

BONOFFEE COFFEE

3 teaspoons instant coffee granules
150ml (5fl oz or 2/3 cup) boiling water
450ml (16fl oz or 2 cups) vanilla ice cream
1 large banana
300ml (10fl oz or 1 1/4 cups) milk
Few drops vanilla essence
85ml (3fl oz or 1/3 cup) Tia Maria
2 teaspoons drinking chocolate
Chocolate flakes, to serve (optional)

Mix together coffee and water and set aside to cool.  Place all the ingredients, except the chocolate powder, in a blender or food processor and process them until completely smooth.  Pour into tall glasses and sprinkle the chocolate powder over the top.  Serve with chocolate flakes, if desired.
Serves 4-6.

Alas I couldn’t find any drinking chocolate in the cupboard, but I did find some Lindt chocolate shavings … score!!! haha.  I even broke out the super-duper expensive hand-blown glassware to drink it out of.  I was given a pair of these by my very best friend Vicki, and I’d hate to think what they’re worth today – they’re hand-blown by Hoglund Glass, and apparently are quite the collector’s item … I personally don’t care, because I adore them to death, and will never sell them, I love them too much! 😀

I really should show the results of my decorations, but I think this post is getting waaaay to long by now, so I’ll create a new post shortly 🙂

Coconut Biscuits (aka Cookies)

Seeing as it’s been requested, I’m happy to give you the recipe for Coconut Biscuits/Cookies – I have to say, though, the coconut flavour is very light, and I wasn’t entirely thrilled with how dry the mixture was when mixing, so I added a teensy bit of milk to the mixture to help it stick together.  They tasted OK, though, and my work colleagues didn’t complain.  I personally think, though, that the Honey Coconut Biscuits/Cookies that I’ve made previously are nicer, so I’ll give you that recipe as well (I’ll be making those this weekend to take into work on Monday).

CRISP COCONUT BISCUITS/COOKIES

125g (4oz) butter
1 cup castor sugar
1 egg
2 cups self-raising flour
pinch of salt
1 cup coconut
extra sugar

Cream butter and sugar, beat in egg, add sifted flour, salt and coconut.  Roll into balls and press flat between hands.  Dip top side in extra sugar.
Place on greased oven trays sugar side up; allow for spreading.  Bake in moderately hot oven (220-230C/425-450F) 10 to 15 minutes.
Makes about 40

Coconut biscuits

HONEY COCONUT BISCUITS/COOKIES

125g (4oz) butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons coconut
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup coconut, extra

Cream butter and sugar, add egg, beat until light and fluffy.  Add coconut and honey, beat until combined.  Fold in sifted flour, mix well.  Roll teaspoonfuls of mixture into balls, then roll in extra coconut.  Place on lightly greased oven trays, at least 5cm (2in) apart.  Cook in moderate oven (190-200C/375-400F) for 15 minutes.  Cool on trays.
Makes about 35