Photo Hunt: Greasy

 

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
|

This week’s theme is ”Greasy” and this meal from a favourite el cheapo dining place in Auckland (“Kiwi Country”) should taste greasy with that deep-fried chicken, but it never ever does.  One of the things I miss from working in Auckland city centre is picking up the occasional lunch from here.  It’s located in a little side street, downstairs below street level, and is a real little goldmine – my Mum keeps up the family tradition now and occasionally visits with a dear family friend, and of course we pop in ourselves when I’m visiting Auckland.  My mouth is salivating already at that chicken dipped in chilli sauce and that succulent crispy salad – yum!

On cloud 9 … but slowly returning to earth

I just had to post again while I’m on this ridiculous high that I’m currently on!  I’ve just returned home after spending the afternoon at Jeffery Deaver’s book launch/signing … and oh what an exceptional day it’s been!  I can’t tell you just how amazing it was – I signed up for this day on a whim, as I only found out about it on Friday morning and only just barely managed to gain a spot at a table, I think because I was going on my own.  Anyway, I’m so very glad that I did!

I used to do so many things on my own when I was in Auckland, and to some extent in Melbourne – I was always on the go out and about seeing new sights and experiencing new wonders, and really appreciating my surroundings.  The last 12-18 months, however, I’ve been in a bit of an emotional bubble for many reasons that I won’t go into here.  Today, though, it reminded me of the days that I used to hop in the car and go out and do things that were new … and oh my goodness did I love it!  Perhaps it’s been the kick in the pants that I’ve really needed, a reminder that I shouldn’t hold myself back from doing things I enjoy just because other people don’t share the same interests – I actually enjoy my own company, and am finding my self-confidence once again … watch out world, I think she just may be back again!!

Today I dropped my car off at our work car park so I could avoid at least one bus trip, then hopped on a train into the city – on arrival I popped quickly up to the nearest Dymocks bookstore to pick up a new copy of The Bone Collector, and also picked up a copy of Jeffery’s new 007 novel (Carte Blanche) as it was on sale (yippee!).  I then wandered back to the awfully swanky Four Seasons Hotel at Circular Quay and immediately jumped into the queue to have my two books signed by Jeffery.  What a true gentleman he is – he spent quite a lot of time chatting to each person while signing books for us all – I felt like a little schoolgirl at her first concert, and was quite awe-struck to be in such a literary great’s presence!

After the books were signed, I grabbed a glass of champagne and watched the crowds for a few minutes before heading into the ballroom to my table.  I sat next to a lovely older (retired) lady called Pam (I actually may have been a good candidate for the youngest member of the audience in my middle-aged ‘youth’) and we chatted throughout the whole meal.  Lunch was delectable, and the main course consisted of pan-fried barramundi (fish) on a bed of roasted kipfler potatoes with green beans and fresh tomato salsa, followed by dessert of cognac white chocolate log with raspberry coulis, and finished off with freshly brewed coffee and hand-made chocolates, and washed down with a further glass of McWilliams Semillon Sauvignon Blanc … ah bliss, I do love me a good gourmet meal!!  Sadly I hadn’t learnt how to use my iPhone camera yet, and totally screwed up my mains photo … oh well, c’est la vie!

279356_10150236507228148_704798147_7508930_3996054_o 272964_10150236508253148_704798147_7508939_1373444_o

While dessert was being served Jeffery was introduced then spent the next 50 minutes enthralling us with his wonderful tales on how he writes his books, and the joy of bringing James Bond’s character to life in his latest book.  He really is a very witty presenter, as you would expect from such a literary genius, and we were kept entertained the entire time.  At the end of his speech he returned to the foyer for more book signings, and I decided to purchase one final book and have it signed (greedy little git that I am!), and asked if I could be awfully rude and have a photo taken with him.  He was a real sport and found one of the assistants to help us out, then I crouched down next to him for a quick photo – and that was the final touch to an already exceptional day, with photographic proof of this historic event.

Jeffery-Deaver-and-me-at-hi

In my teens I used to read the old Mills & Boons romance novels and other such books (mainly because I could read an entire book during a good soaking in the bathtub), but as I matured I very quickly moved away from the ‘girlie’ books and became a fan of such authors as Wilbur Smith (mainly the Courtenay family novels), Stephen King, and the like, before finding a love for Patricia D Cornwell novels … since then I’ve never looked back and often pick up a thriller or forensic book ahead of other genres.  A work colleague and friend loaned me The Bone Collector about 11-12 years ago to try reading, and I was hooked!  The Lincoln Rhyme series of books are second to none in terms of fast pace, wonderful characters, and multiple twists at the end of the book that leave you guessing right up until the last chapter, and often the last pages – if you haven’t tried one yet, and enjoy thrillers, I can certainly recommend this series … mind you, I have some of  his Kathryn Dance novels as audiobooks to try those out too … and of course I now have two standalone (ie non-series) books to read too – “The Edge” and “007 Carte Blanche” 😀

Wow, I think it’s been a long time since I’ve written on here with a feeling of such enthusiasm – let’s hope it remains … even if I’m not stitching 😉

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

Profitable day and gifts

I’ll start the post off by showing off some exquisite knitting that I received from my beautiful and talented friend Nicki as my birthday gift – and I totally adore it!!  How could I not?  The knitting is perfection itself, and the colour is so very “me” – it’ll be perfect for our Sydney winter for that extra bit of neck warmth.  Thanks again Nicki 😀

Also, I just realised that I haven’t posted my earlier birthday gifts yet – they arrived while I was flat out at work in February, and didn’t realise I hadn’t uploaded the piccie yet!  That doesn’t mean I love the gifts any less, ‘cos I absolutely adore everything … they’re all duckies!!!  I can’t believe Tessa found all these little lovelies on her travels – they’re fantastic additions to my duck collection, and they really put a smile on my face.  Thanks once again Tessa, for your beautiful and thoughtful gifts – I especially adore the framed duckie button, that’s an awesome idea, it’s just wonderful 😀

Both Nicki and Tessa were initially online friends, but then became real-life friends after meeting face-to-face (Nicki in Auckland, and Tessa in Melbourne) … life is a much brighter place with friends such as these lovely ladies 😀

section divider

Now, before I get on to today’s achievements, here’s the latest stitching update of Merry Xmas by Prairie Moon – not sure if they look more like aliens rather than skeletons with those big eye sockets haha … alas I need a skein of Old Crow before I can fill those eyes in, so I’ll have to continue sticking with the white, cream, pink and red for a while longer 🙂

section divider

After spending the day yesterday blobbing out playing computer games, watching TV and doing a little bit of stitching, today was a different story … partly helped by the extra hour in bed thanks to the clocks going back last night.  Today there has been no stitching to be had, but instead plenty of time spent in the kitchen … baking of all things!  Trying to use up some cupboard stocks (why on earth I have two big bags of coconut, etc I do not know!), I opted to bake items where I had to buy next-to-nothing and came up with the following (I know, Mum, this is ME … baking … whatever next?!!!):

Cinnamon Ginger Cake ready to go into the oven

Cinnamon Ginger Cake keeping company with Caramel Walnut Slice

The ultimate sin … cutting the cake before it’s 100% cold … but oh so scrummy!!!  😀
Another 1/4 of the cake went to my elderly downstairs neighbour as a treat

Then another quick trip over to the supermarket for some ‘odd’ items I didn’t have in stock, I sliced up some rump steak and whipped up some Asian-style marinade so it can stew in the fridge overnight … which means I’m having stir-fry tomorrow night – yum (admittedly the pre-mixed beef doesn’t quite look so yummy in the photo thanks to lumps of lemon grass and garlic LOL) 🙂

I can’t wait to cook this up tomorrow night!!! 😀

And to top the kitchen chores off, I pulled my finger out and prepared a couple of salad lunches for work Mon/Tue this week, and also chopped up some honeydew melon and rockmelon … hmmm, me thinks that a good start to eating more healthily this week! 😀

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!)

Quick drive-by posting

The last few weeks have been absolutely mental at work – another project that hasn’t gone as well as planned thanks to an unstable testing platform, code not delivered as planned, and another department totally not delivering their side of the requirements.  Testing is supposed to take 2 weeks, this time it took the entire month of February … and I’m sure I don’t need to say how much I was “over it” by the end!!  But thankfully March is now here, and testing is mostly behind me … except now I have to do more to help out the other department now they’re implementing their side of it … pfffft.

Alas that means there hasn’t been much motivation to do anything other than sleep in my spare time, and not much stitching.  Then when I did do some stitching both my camera batteries died … and I lost my Lumix charger.  The charger turned up a few days ago, then I lost my memory card … I decided to just buy a cheap replacement online (and found a store by doing so that offers really healthy discounts on top brand cards!!), then of course found the original one stuck in the front of the computer this morning … after I had checked there the other night!  Oh well, I needed a spare anyway, and now I have loads and loads of memory on the cards for my next holidays 😀

That also means I’ve managed to take a couple of quick snaps this morning – even if they’re not great quality in the overcast morning light, here is my current stitching update … one finish and one work in progress:

LHN-He's a Flake
“He’s a Flake” by Little House Needleworks
stitched on 32ct hand-dyed Belfast linen by Countrystitch ~ colour Kina
with recommended threads (Crescent Colours and DMC)

2605948540047689748pszEZV_fs
WIP – “Joyeux Noel” by The Drawn Thread
(I’m using DMC 3865 instead of 739 for the snow etc for more contrast on the fabric)

I would have done more stitching on Wednesday night, but at 7pm I remembered I was supposed to bake for morning tea the next day, so chose something I’d never done before that was a bit of a challenge (including making my own pastry, which I haven’t done for years!).  Alas it took me all night (literally) and 1 1/2 hours the next morning to get everything finished, but I was just ‘in the mood’ for kitchen time, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  If I get chance, I’ll post the recipes later – the Orange Liqueur Chocolate Tartlets went down an absolute treat!  Anyway, here are the results:

Cheese-Crisps
Cheese Crisps (with Havarti & Basil filling)
(these are only about 1.5cm in diameter … like little cheesy burgers
for Ken and Barbie! LOL – and for me very more-ish!!)

Orange-Liqueur-Chocolate-Ta
Orange Liqueur Chocolate Tartlets (simply divine!)

On a health side, I’ve been going to Physio twice a week since last week, and had my first hydrotherapy session on Wednesday – hopefully it will help to loosen up my lower back and stop the knee pains … when it gets really bad, unfortunately the pain keeps me awake at night – and it’s been the worst lately when spending long hours in the office 😦

And on that note I really should get my A into G and get my carcass into that office – today I have a meeting with our Occupational Health & Safety assessor to find out if my employer will cough up for a new chair for me … otherwise I’m going shopping to buy myself one.  Not quite the most exciting of shopping, but a very worthwhile investment if I do have to do it myself! 🙂