Saturday, June 20, 2015

Weekend Cooking: Green Curry Chicken Pie

In my last Weekend Cooking post, I talked about how I find looking through relevant magazines and cook books really helps in getting and keeping my head into the right place for weight loss. Each time I receive a new magazine I spend a long time reading through the recipes and the stories and then go through it again and again. Eventually I will actively choose recipes that I think I want to try. This is one that jumped out pretty quickly from the July/August issue, and just like last week's recipe it was one that I made twice within a few days because it was such a hit. Well, and also because I had all the ingredients on hand and only had to buy an onion to make dinner. In fact, when I had the discussion with the boy to determine what he might like to eat for this week, this was the only thing he asked for again which would make it three times in less than two weeks.

Confession time. Until a few weeks ago I had never made any kind of green curry from scratch. I recently made a recipe from the Symply Too Good to be True cookbooks which I might share another time but having made that I felt that I could try and make this version without too much difficulty. It is actually a pretty easy recipe although preparing the filling does take a little time. The other recipe is probably lower calories but I must confess that I have really enjoyed being able to have some pastry without feeling too guilty.

Green Curry Chicken Pie


1/2 tspn olive oil
1 brown onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tbspn green curry paste or gluten-free curry paste
2 tbspn wholemeal plain flour or gluten-free flour
2 tspn Massel Salt Reduced Chicken Style Stock Powder**
250ml (1 cup) boiling water
80ml (1/3 cup) Trident Light Coconut Milk
2 tbspn skim milk
250g skinless chicken breast fillet, cut into 2cm cubes
200g broccoli, cut into small florets
50g (2 cups) baby spinach
1 sheet 25% reduced-fat puff pastry or gluten-free puff pastry
50g egg, lightly whisked
40g (1 1/2 cups) mixed salad leaves, to serve

**I used the reduced salt chicken stock powder I had in the cupboard

Preheat oven to 210C (fan-forced). Line an oven tray with baking paper. Put a rectangular 750ml (3 cup) ovenproof dish on prepared tray.

Heat oil in a medium non-stick saucepan over a medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes or until onion begins to soften.  Add curry paste and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add flour and cook stirring, for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and gradually whisk in combined stock powder and water until sauce is smooth. Add coconut milk and milk, and whisk to combine.

Return pan to stovetop and cook, stirring over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture thickens and comes to a simmer. Remove pan from heat, Add chicken, broccoli and spinach, and stir to combine. Spoon mixture into the prepared dish.

Lay pasty sheet on a clean surface. Cut 4 x 1 cm thick strips of pastry from the perimeter of the sheet. Brush rim of dish with a little egg and press pastry strips around the rim. Brush with egg. Top with remaining pastry, rolling out slightly, if needed, to fit. Trim edges. Brush with a little egg. Cut a few small slits in the top of the pastry. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

Serve pie with salad leave.

Serves 2

There is also a suggestion that you could make a fish pie by replacing the chicken with boneless fish fillets and the green curry past with red curry paste. The teenage boy would not be a huge fan but it might be something I might try in future.

I will say that the pie actually looks huge so it isn't like it isn't a generous serving for two.

The first time I made this I stuffed up the pastry so I had some leftovers. Just because I could I made a really quick free-form apple pie using fresh apple. By free-form I mean that thing was messy, messy, messy but it tasted good. This was a hit with the boy, and during the course of the week he made himself another couple of pies. I did laugh though because, when I made it, it was some apple and cinnamon shoved in the middle of some pastry with the uneven sized edges folded in. His pie was beautifully presented with plaited pastry and looked very professional.  Then the second time he made a pie this is what he presented. I would point out that this was all for him though!!



Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Weekend Cooking: Pork Nachos

My quest to find recipes that are healthy, tasty, acceptable to the teenage boy and diabetes friendly continues, and I have to say I think this recipe is a winner!

One of the things that I have noticed in my weight loss journey is that I am more likely to be successful when I am spending time looking through the Diabetic Living magazines that I am subscribed to and the cook books that I have (the ones that focus on weight loss and diabetes only) even if I am not picking recipes to make. It's almost as though it is part of training my brain to think differently. I study the magazines as soon as I receive them and then again and again. Luckily this is a magazine that I do find lots of tasty looking recipes in.

This recipe is one that I found in the May/June issue of the Australian version of Diabetic Living magazine.

I actually cooked this twice in the space of week. The first time was on a Sunday night when I asked a friend and her kids around for dinner at short notice. Everyone liked it but the 3 year old was particularly enthusiastic, even coming back for seconds. Mum was also impressed when I told her how many vegetables there were hidden in it! The second time was at the request of my teenage son. Again, I am not going to tell him how many vegies there actually are in it.


Pork Nachos


1 brown onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
1 zucchini, roughly chopped
1 red capsicum, roughly chopped
1 tspn olive oil
400g Heart Smart pork mince (very lean)
1 tbspn salt-reduced taco seasoning or gluten free taco seasoning
400g can no-added-salt chopped tomatoes
1 tspn Massel chicken style salt reduced stock powder
185 ml (3/4 cup) water
400g can no-added-salt red kidney beans, drained
80g Macro Original Corn Chips**
40g (1/2 cup) reduced-fat grated cheese
1 large tomato, chopped to serve
Coriander leaves to serve
2 tbspsn extra-light sour cream

**I couldn't find this particular brand so I just used ordinary corn chips

Put onion, garlic, celery, zucchini and capsicum in a food processor and process until finely chopped.

Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add vegetable mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until vegetables soften. Increase heat to high. Add mince and cook, stirring often, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon, for 3-4 minutes or until mince is browned.

Add taco seasoning to pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add canned tomato, stock powder, and water. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add beans and cook, uncovered, for a further 10 minutes or until mixture is thick.

Preheat oven to 180C (fan-forced). Spoon mince mixture into a shallow ovenproof dish. Arrange corn chips on top, pushing slightly into mince. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Top with tomato and sprinkle with coriander.  Serve with sour cream.

Serves 4.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Weekend Cooking: Gunfire breakfast

Today is Anzac Day - a day that is very important for Australians and New Zealanders. It is a day where we gather together to commemorate the sacrifices that have been made by those who have served our respective countries.It is always an emotional day, and a special day, but it was more so today because it is the 100th anniversary of the landings at Gallipolli.

Over my years of blogging I have written a number of posts about Anzac Day so I won't talk too much more about the history of the day. Instead, I thought that I would share my day, and one particular aspect of it for Weekend Cooking, because today I did something I have been meaning to do for years and years but never quite gotten around to. I went to the Dawn Service at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance.

A number of weeks ago I was talking with a friend about the fact that I had never actually been to a dawn service and she said that she hadn't either. Given that it is the 100th anniversary we both agreed that this was the year to do it, and so a plan was born. We figured that if we both committed to it then neither of us would be tempted to rollover and go back to sleep because it was too cold or wet, we were too tired or whatever the excuse was we came up with on the day.

We therefore headed into the city around 4am and made our way to the Shrine of Remembrance, a building I had only visited for the first time back in January, and joined around 80000 other like minded people to wait for the coming dawn. One of the most incredible things was realising how quiet that number of people can be sometimes, particularly during the minute's silence.

I get emotional whenever I hear the Last Post play and today was no exception but there were many other emotional moments too, such as hearing the hymn Abide with Me interspersed with a gun salute and hearing current and former service men sharing stories not only from WWI but also showing how the hardships faced back then can be linked with our current soldiers who answer the call whenever they are required to serve around the world.

I thought I would share a couple of the photos I took before getting to the foody part of this post.


Shrine of Remembrance in the pre-dawn light

Looking back towards Melbourne from our possie near the shrine





One of the things that they did for this year was ask the community to knit some poppies. Yesterday they formed a carpet in Fed Square, one of the major public spaces here in Melbourne, but today they lined either side of Princes Bridge which was part of the route for the parade that also happened today. It is a pity that it was so wet today as the poppies looked a bit sodden but it still looked very effective.




Now onto the food part....

Up until this week I don't believe I had ever heard the term gunfire breakfast, or if I had it had definitely slipped from my somewhat porous mind. I was talking to my sister about coming into the ceremony and she mentioned staying for the gunfire breakfast. This is apparently part of the traditions of Anzac Day with a lot of Returned Services Leagues (RSL) putting on the breakfast after local ceremonies. For ours, a gold coin donation was requested with proceeds going towards charities that work with former soldiers.

What is the gunfire breakfast? Glad you asked. Back in World War I, the diggers would be given a breakfast of .... before they faced going over the top and into the path of danger and for so many of them potential death or injury. During the ceremony today, they talked about the original gunfire breakfast consisting of black coffee laced with rum, some beef and potatoes and maybe some biscuits, although there does seem to be a bit of conjecture around the definition of what made up a gunfire breakfast. Regardless, I am not sure that I would feel the need to eat much if I knew that at some point in the coming day I would be facing imminent death!

Today's breakfast wasn't fancy, and possibly not all that recognisable by original diggers but still there was no actual gunfire so that's a bonus.  The food today was provided by the catering corps of the army. Probably my first and perhaps last time to be fed by such a group!  It was interesting because we were standing near the family of a soldier from the catering corps so we got to eavesdrop on their conversation. It turns out that today to feed however many thousands of people stopped for breakfast there were 10 tents that between them were expected to serve up around 900 kilos of sausages alone! Must be a huge logistical event!! I presume that we were eating powdered egg rather than the real thing because otherwise it would be difficult to imagine breaking that many eggs! Apparently there were also a lot of Anzac biscuits that were being given away but we didn't end up lining up for those!

So whilst this might not be the prettiest or tastiest breakfast I have ever had, it certainly had a lot of meaning and seemed like a perfect way to follow the dawn service.. It consisted of sausages, eggs, onions and bread. We did end up heading back into the city to find nice coffee, something the coffee lovers with me insisted upon!!



Below is a list of links to posts I have previously written about Anzac Day

2013 - Quote from Daughter of Mars by Tom Keneally
2012 - Joint post with Maree from Just Add Books
2011 - Acknowledging indigenous diggers/I was only Nineteen
2010 - My grandparent's story/reading war stories
2009 - Two up.
2008 - The Last Post

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sydney baby!!

I am in Sydney this weekend for the inaugural Historical Novel Society Australia conference, and I have to say I am excited to be here! I have long looked at the HNS conferences that have been held in the US and the UK and wished I could be there and finally it is our turn. Not to mention the fact that I have been doing lots of drives to the airport to drop other people off and pick them up but finally it is my chance to get on a plane and go somewhere!

My friend and I flew up on Friday morning and so we got to do some touristy stuff which was fun and then there was the opening reception tonight. I am not sure I am going to write a whole lot about the conference but I thought I would share a few photos over the next couple of days.

I will start with a bonus in relation to the weight loss I have been talking about recently. Today, I was able to get on the plane and not feel self conscious at all about being too fat for the person that I am sitting next to, or about something as simple as doing up the seatbelt. On previous journeys I have either had to really struggle hard to get the seatbelt done up or even just hide the seatbelt clip under my clothes and pretend that it was done up as the flight attendants walked through the plane. The other day I was talking to my beauty therapist about the fact that you are always thinking about your weight when you are overweight and this is a classic example. I was so excited by how easy it was to do it up that I even took a photo which just looks odd but what the heck, I am sharing it here anyway.


Once we checked in to our hotel, we spent the afternoon doing the tourist thing. I said to my friend that I am travelling with that I wanted to just hang out at Circular Quay, and she was initially not keen. In the end that is basically what we ended up doing but not before we spent some time walking through the gorgeous Queen Victoria Building here in Sydney.

Firstly, here's the view from the top of our hotel, which was built in the late 60s and you can quite honestly tell. Accommodation in Sydney is so expensive, so whilst it would be great to have a gorgeous hotel room, who can afford that!!


The QV building is now a shopping centre and it is gorgeous. We could quite easily have spent a lot of time looking at some of the more interesting shops, and maybe having some coffee and cake and just appreciating the interior, especially one of the clocks






We walked to the Opera House and then back around so that we were standing under the bridge looking back towards the Opera House. Of course, that means that there are plenty of the quintessential Sydney photos, although I am looking very windswept because it was windy.




And to give you some idea of exactly how windy it was....





Tonight was the first session for the conference and very dignified it was too. Champagne, some delicious finger foods, more champagne, a welcome address by Kate Forsyth and an opening address by Sophie Masson, a book launch for Felicity Pulman and then a discussion panel whose topic was ‘What can historical novelists and historians learn from each other?’.





And now, time to sleep before another big day tomorrow!! Before that though. Did you notice? I almost talked about bookish type stuff in this post!! Go me!



Monday, March 16, 2015

On recognising my own achievements

Today I have been doing the internal equivalent of a Kermit the frog arm flail from excitement because I reached a major goal on my weight loss journey. So, yes, I look a bit like this but just not as green or as skinny...yet!



It’s been really interesting to talk to people recently. Everyone is being really encouraging about the weight loss journey and I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to say something. But here’s the thing. Sometimes people say things that they mean in an encouraging way but they come out a bit differently. So, for example, someone I know keeps on telling me that I am so skinny. And I have lost a lot of weight but there is no way that I am skinny. There is still plenty of work to be done. Still at least another 20kgs. At least. Or there was the man in the coffee shop the other week who told me that not only did I look so much better but that I was a much nicer person now. What the heck does that even mean? I am the same person that I was, same personality. The fact that they didn’t rate me before potentially says something about them rather than me.

But I do find myself thinking about how I recognise my own achievements. Most of the time when someone says to me “oh my goodness you have lost so much weight”, my instant reaction is to almost dismiss the compliment with a comment along the lines of I have so much more to go. It’s not like I can’t see the weight loss now. It took me a long time but I can definitely see the changes in my face and certain parts of my body. For example, I love the fact that I can see and feel my collarbones now and I like to feel my shoulder bones just because I can!!

What I don’t want to do is get to the point where I think that I am done now. If I stayed at my current weight could I be happy? Probably. But the fact is that I want to get lower. My next goal is now another 5kgs away and then 5kgs after that etc. Right now I can walk into a normal clothes shop and find stuff that fits, not everything, but some at least. Another 10kgs and I should be able to walk in and buy almost anything.

I worry far more about things like what to wear when than I ever used to. It’s a bit odd really. I had a conversation with a friend a couple of days ago about how it is more about taking pride in your appearance. I’ve been buying new clothes, shoes, accessories and it has been fun but it’s also a bit strange. Does it really matter what you wear when and wear? Apparently in my new world it does. And it did in my old world as well but it was different. Part of the reason why it was different is that I couldn’t recognise myself properly. Not sure if that makes sense but let me try and show you an example and hopefully that will help. A couple of months ago now I cleaned out my wardrobe. I got rid of almost everything I had in there that was too big now and there was a huge pile of clothes. If you had of asked me about those clothes I would have said that I had some favourite clothes that I liked to wear but I wouldn’t have necessarily said that I had much in the way of nice clothes. A friend’s sister came to look through the clothes that I had and took the vast majority of them and she was rapt. She kept on saying oh my goodness, there are so many nice clothes here.

I guess what it comes down to at the moment is that I am trying to work out what my new normal feels like. And it does feel very different to my old normal. I feel much better emotionally and much better physically but there are some days when it just feels very strange.

And in the hopes of recognising my own achievements here are a couple of photos which show the transformation so far. The photos where I am wearing the purple shirt were taken in July last year. At that point I had already lost around 10kgs. The photos where I am wearing pink were taken two or three weeks ago. I would totally make the one where I am standing sideways my Facebook profile photo if I didn't think it would look a bit weird.




Probably should have done my hair properly before taking these photos and cleaned up the bedroom. Oh well, next time.



Saturday, March 14, 2015

Weekend Cooking: Romantics Anonymous

A couple of years ago I started watching and posting about foreign films, most of which happened to have a foodie feel to them. One of the first films that I watched was Romantics Anonymous. I started writing the post about this film at least 18 months ago after I had watched it for the third time. Last weekend I watched it again because I wanted a feel good movie, so maybe, just maybe, this might be the time when I actually finish writing my post about it.

Romantics Anonymous is a delightful comedy about a chronically shy young woman with a talent for making chocolates who starts working for a man who is terrified of just about everything, but especially of women. In some ways, this has quite an old fashioned feel about it, maybe a bit like an Audrey Hepburn comedy perhaps. It is charmingly funny in a predictable kind of way but it doesn't matter that it is predictable because it is well done.

Our story starts with Angelique who goes to a family run company, The Chocolate Mill to apply for a new job. She thinks that she is going to be a chocolate maker, but rather finds herself working as the sales rep for the failing company. Angelique has long had an incredible talent for making chocolate but her shyness means that she has always chosen to sit in the background rather than take the credit for them, but talking to anyone is definitely way outside her comfort zone

The Chocolate Mill is a company that is being run, pretty much into the ground, by Jean-Rene. This isn't deliberate but rather his is a company that makes a good product but hasn't moved with the times. He also has his own issues with shyness and anxiety which he is going to counselling for. Challenged by his counsellor to a series of actions, Jean-Rene and Angelique begin to spend time together with interesting events occurring, falling in love along the way. But can two people with such emotional hangups tell each other how they feel, let alone work out how to be together, and at the same time save the company from going into liquidation.

The chocolates all look amazing and I would happily have had a few more minutes of that in the movie.

One of the things that I do find myself wondering about this movie is what the main male character would look like if it were made in Hollywood. The main male character here has appeal but he certainly doesn't look like a Hollywood rom com leading man. At the moment there is a French film festival on in Melbourne and one of the films I would like to see stars this same actor whose name is Benoît Poelvoorde. The leading lady, Isabelle Carré, is gorgeous (of course).  I am hoping to actually get to see it, but if not I will definitely be looking for it on the World Movies channel in the coming months.

This is a movie that is a bit like chocolate itself. You know that it doesn't have a lot of substance but it still tastes good when you take a bite! Worth watching. In fact, worth watching several times apparently.






Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Weekend Cooking: My mousse problem

We have a chocolate mousse problem in my house. This weekend, I am determined that I am going to come up with a solution that might not solve the problem, but at the very least means I get some mousse occasionally. Let me try to explain.

As I have mentioned numerous times, I am in the process of losing a lot of weight. Most of the time I am doing this just by eating sensibly but every now and again I need a treat so that I don't feel as though I am completely depriving myself. Sometimes that means a couple of squares of dark chocolate, sometimes a couple of biscuits but sometimes I want something desserty.

In the interests of trying to have some low fat but tasty treats on hand, I started buying twin packs of low fat chocolate mousse, and for a few weeks it was all good. I would have one tub of mousse, which conveniently comes in a size that is enough for the taste of a treat but also means that I don't overeat because it is a single portion serving. Then, a few days later, I would have the other tub and be content. That all changed after my son, the not so little chef, tried one of the mousses....and liked it a lot.

It started getting to the point where I would buy two twin packs and put them in the fridge and then come home thinking tonight I am going to have a mousse only to find that they were all gone. On occasion there might be one left for me but all the others would be gone because he was hungry. Yes, I have a typical STARVING teenage boy in the house. And that's fine. I don't mind that he wants to eat them because of the cost. Usually it is about $1 for a serving, but it's the fact that I am eagerly anticipating a treat and then they aren't there!

The other week I thought I would try to buy some non low fat mousses as well as the one that I like for me, but that didn't quite work out as I had hoped because he likes mine better than he liked the other ones so he ate all of his and all of mine too!

So, in the interests of trying to have the occasional serving of chocolate mousse I think I have no choice but to try and see if I can find a recipe for chocolate mousse that can fit into my eating, that I can portion out so that  I am not eating too much, and that the boy will still eat. These days, when I am looking for a recipe that will fit these criteria then it is the Symply Too Good To Be True cookbooks that I refer to, and once again I have not been disappointed. So, this long weekend seems like a good time to try making it myself.

This recipe is actually for Chocolate Mousse Pie but I am not sure that I will be making the pie part, not least of all because I am not familiar with the brand of biscuits that are mentioned.

We'll see if the boy likes this mousse shall we.

Chocolate Mousse Pie

BASE
12 low fat choc chip cookies (Paradise Lite®)
1 tablespoon (15g) Flora Light® margarine melted
¾ teaspoon skim milk
cooking spray

FILLING
24 squares (100g) dark cooking chocolate
1 x 375ml can CHILLED evaporated light milk
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
2 tablespoons gelatine
¼ cup boiling water
2 x Jarrah Choc O Lait® sachets

Before starting make sure your evaporated milk is CHILLED. Place chilled canned milk into freezer for 1 hour before making filling.

To make base: In a food processor crumble biscuits. Add melted margarine and milk, process until combined. Coat a pie plate with cooking spray then spread biscuit mixture over base, pressing firmly. Refrigerate.

To make filling: In a small ceramic bowl melt chocolate in microwave on high temperature for one minute. Leave to sit in microwave while you prepare other ingredients. Make sure evaporated milk is very cold. In a large mixing bowl beat chilled milk and vanilla essence until really thick, using an electric beater. Add melted chocolate and blend well. Dissolve gelatine completely in boiling water then add Jarrah sachets, mix well. Pour mixture into milk, beat continuously until well combined. Pour mixture over biscuit base, refrigerate until set.

VARIATION: TO MAKE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE, OMIT BASE AND REDUCE GELATINE DOWN TO 1½ TABLESPOONS SERVES 8.
Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.


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