Saturday, February 15, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Beef and Vegetable Red Curry

Sometimes, despite your best laid plans, things just don't quite go right, and this was the case a couple of weeks ago when we had a plan to try a new recipe which was going to be a Beef and Vegetable Rendang Curry. However, when you realise that you have forgotten to add the rendang curry paste to the shopping list, and then you do an emergency dash to the shop around the corner but they don't have any, you have to improvise.

Now improvisation isn't really my strong point. I am a recipe follower, a weigher of ingredients, I am most definitely not someone who can look in the cupboard and voila....something magical appears. My husband is much better than I am though.

Once he got home from the unsuccessful emergency dash we decided that instead of using rendang and a couple of other ingredients we would use the rest of the red curry paste that we already here in the fridge.

So this recipe is inspired by the Beef and Vegetable Rendang Curry from the Symply Too Good to be True (book 7), and using the techniques in those books, particularly in relation to the use of evaporated milk and coconut essence instead of coconut milk to reduce the calories.

Beef and Vegetable Red Curry

300g potatoes
Cooking spray
500g rump steak cut into bit-size pieces
1 tspn crushed garlic
1 onion, cut in quarters then sliced
2 cups small broccoli florets
1 cup red capsicum diced
1/2 cup water
20 snow peas
3 tbspn red curry paste
1 tbspn cornflour
1 tspn coconut essence
1 x 375 can evaporated light milk

Peel and chop potatoes into bite size pieces. Parboil in a little water in microwave for 5 minutes. Drain and leave to one side.

In a large non-stick frypan that has been coated with cooking spray, place dice rump and garlic into pan and toss together until meat has browned. Remove and leave to one side.

Re-coat pan with cooking spray then add onion, broccoli and capsicum with 1/4 cup water and cook 3 minutes. Add snow peas and potato with the extra 1/4 cup of water and cook 2-3 minutes or until vegetables are almost cooked.

Add curry paste and fold through the vegetables are almost cooked.

Add the meat back to pan.

Combine cornflour with coconut essence and evaporated milk, then add to pan, ,stirring continuously until just boiled. Do not overboil sauce, as the milk may separate. When boiled, take off heat and serve.

If you were going to be making the original rendang recipe you would add 3 tablespoons of rendang curry paste and then 2 tablespoons of kecap manis and 2 teaspoons of reduced salt soy sauce.

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.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Chalk Hill trilogy by Lily Malone

Recently I got an email telling me that the second book in the Chalk Hill series was on sale so I thought why not, especially seeing as I already had the first book on my Kindle, albeit unread.

When I was deciding what to read next, I decided it was time to actually read the first book, what I didn't realise is that it was apparently time to read all three books in the trilogy in succession.

Water Under the Bridge

Ella Davenport has just moved to the small town of Chalk Hill with her son Sam. She needs a new start, having recently separated from her husband. Not only is she moving to a new town, she is also trying to get her new career as a real estate agent off the ground.

Ella used to be almost kind of famous.  Many years before she was a rising swimming star, so close to going to the Beijing Olympics, until circumstances and scandal put an end to her swimming dream. She married her swim coach and together they were an advertisers dream, but now that part of her life is over. She has a new look and has changed her name back so that she can start her new life without any hangover from her previous life. And Chalk Hill is the perfect place. Not a swimming pool in site!

Her first listing to sell is a beautiful old home overlooking the Chalk Hill bridge. She needs this sale for her confidence, to establish her place in the family owned real estate agency she is working in, and for some income.  If only the seller would return her calls.

Jake Honeychurch really does not want to sell his late grandmother's house but his brother Abe most definitely does want to sell. Jake knows that Abe is in some kind of money trouble, but he has no idea what kind, so he has priced the property so high that no one will want to buy the place while he figures out what is going on. He also is sabotaging the open house viewings much to Ella's frustration.

I enjoyed the interactions between Jake and Ella and felt that they were a good match. Jake was also good with Ella's 10 year old son Sam who was struggling with all the changes in his life, and especially missing Erik, his mum's former swim coach/husband.

I have to say, I loved Erik, the one armed German swim coach who had been, and continued to be, Ella's' best friend and biggest supporter.

This was a fun, easy read filled with interesting characters and a fictional town that would be lovely to visit.

The Cafe by the Bridge

The second book in the trilogy is where we finally found out more about Abe's big secret. He has been scammed by a con woman and it has cost him everything. He has had to sell his successful restaurants and move back to the home town he left many years ago because he felt like he never really fitted in.

When Taylor Woods rolls into town, she is there for one reason and one reason alone - to find Abel Honeychurch. Her brother Will has been scammed by the same woman, and is now not doing well at all emotionally or financially. But how can Abe help someone else when he can't even help himself.

It feels a bit strange to say that I enjoyed Abe's story seeing as he had suffered so much at the hands of the scammer, but he's trying very hard to build his for now life. It's not where he necessarily wants to be, but it is where he needs to be for now. He's trying to build up a cafe in his grandmother's house, so there are plenty of food related passages that had me licking my lips.

Taylor was a little bit harder for me. She was a psychologist, specialising in children's psychology, but there were times in this story where she skirted the line ethically. She found out details about Amanda, the scammer, by using her dog to tempt Amanda's young daughter to talk to her so she was basically stalking people in order to get what she needed. I get that she wanted to help her brother to recover but she was a bit of a bull in the china shop and there were times when she was dismissive of Abe's feelings in her quest.

Having said that, she was good for Abe in lots of ways. She recognised his depression and encouraged him to ask for help, both in relation to what happened and also in relation to his somewhat estranged relationship with his father.

Last Bridge Before Home

Whilst I very much enjoyed the first two books in the series, I would say that it was the final book in the trilogy that really had me on the edge of my seat.

Jaydah Tully and Braxton (Brix) Honeychurch have been circling around each other for years and there is a very strong attraction between them..Brix has long been willing to make it public between them but Jaydah has always resisted for reasons he could never really understand mainly because Jaydah has never given him any reasons. They had to remain a secret, despite the fact that everyone can see that there is something between them.

Brix has come back to town because his family needs him,  but when it turns out that Jaydah needs him more he is immediately there for her. Little can he know just how much his life is going to change, because with Jaydah he doesn't only get her. Her mother and sister come as part of the whole package deal. Jaydah is absolutely determined to get all of the Tully women out from under the roof of the family home, which is a bit difficult because no one in town knows that her sister even exists.

The secrets that people keep are a theme in these books. Even in a small town, where everyone appears to know everyone else's business, it is possible for people to keep their deepest secrets if they really need to. Even within a seemingly close family, there are secrets that are suddenly revealed, sometimes in the worst of times.

Jaydah is a strong character, who does whatever she can to protect her mother and sister, often at her own expense, and it is she that comes up with the escape plan and who puts the wheels in motion. Brix is also a fantastic character. He is a one woman man. He loves Jaydah, and once he finds out about Jaydah's home life, he wants to immediately spring to defend her but after the initial shock, he does respect that this needs to be done Jaydah's way. And when she springs her second surprise on him, he takes it all in his stride.

It is not unusual for romance authors to use the canvas of their books to examine the relationships between the characters, but also to look at bigger issues. In this book, it is the issues of domestic violence and the rights of people with mental disability. As such, it is darker than the other two books, but it is so well done.There were times when I was reading this book where my stomach was roiling as I read the page, knowing that of course everything was going to work out (this is a romance after all) but worried about how difficult the journey was going to be for all involved. The relief when the characters situation change was palpable for me, almost as though I could finally release my long held in breath.

I have read four books by Lily Malone now, and I definitely intend to read the remaining books in her backlist, as well a keeping an eye out for what comes next from her.

As I mentioned previously, we actually visited the area that this book was set in a couple of months ago, which helped me imagine the area in a vague sense. Reading these books also made me want to go back. We were only down in the south west of Western Australia for a few days, and there is still plenty to see and do in the area.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Love-ly

Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is "Love freebie" which means it can be almost anything.

I can't remember who, but someone I know was talking recently about the number of books that they had on the shelves with the word love in the title, so I thought I would have a look at my trusty spreadsheet and see what my list would look like if I did the same. This has ended up being far more traumatic exercise than it should have been as I accidentally copied a title down the whole list and now I have to try to recreate my spreadsheet for those entries which is not as easy as it sounds. I have been maintaining this spreadsheet for 15 years so the fact that I have messed it up is very annoying, or  maybe the correct word is upsetting.

Anyway.....To be honest, I'm a little surprised that there are only around 60 books with some variation of the word love (be it love, lovers, loving etc), especially seeing as my spreadsheet goes back to 2004 (or it did) and I am a romance reader from way back.

I thought then that my list today would be books with a variation of love in the title, but that aren't from the romance genre that I gave a rating of 4 or more out of 5.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - I first read GGM thanks to the Oprah Book Club back in the day when she had the forums on her website and her choice was One Hundred Years of Solitude - a very long time ago! Then I went through and read a lot of his other books including both of these titles. (Review here)

Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Peony in Love by Lisa See- I read this book more than 10 years ago. Recently I read Lisa See's latest book The Island of Sea Women and I still really enjoy her writing.

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith - This is part of the long running Isabel Dalhousie series by this prolific author! (Review here)

The Sonnet Lover by Carol Goodman - It's been years since I read this author, but I have noticed that she does have a new book out soon.

The Food of Love by Anthony Capella - This author has kind of disappeared completely, or at least I can't find any evidence that he is still writing which is a shame as I enjoyed his writing. (Review here)

The Love Knot by Elizabeth Chadwick - Elizabeth Chadwick has long been a favourite author. I really need to get back to her books as I am a bit behind.

Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes - This is an author who has just grown and grown in popularity over the years

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes. by Elizabeth Bard - A book about Paris. Who knew I would manage to sneak one of those in! (Review here)

Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts - This was such a fabulous short story collection from Aussie author. It was part of a bigger collection which featured all female Australian authors (review here)

The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa - a bonus book because this was one that I had forgotten about completely until I started putting this list together! I really enjoyed this book as you can see by my review here. Also a bonus because I only had 9 books on my list last week so that averages itself out right?

Monday, February 10, 2020

This week...

I'm reading...

I finally started reading a book set in France, which I expected to do a couple of weeks ago but then I got distracted by other books.

The only issue is the book I am reading is The Vineyards of Champagne and after reading a few chapters I have already had a look to see where the Champagne reason is to see if it was doable to visit there during our week in France. It's not at all, but I guess that just means that I need to start planning our next trip to France!

Over the years that I haven't really been blogging about books, or even reading books I had stopped receiving any review books which I am totally okay with. Much better to send them to someone who will actually review them, but every now and again I receive one out of the blue which is a nice treat. This week I received Fiona Lowe's  latest book, Just an Ordinary Family, which sounds really good.

Don't fall of your chair but, despite what I said earlier, I actually wrote a book review this week. Actually I wrote review for all three books in a trilogy, so I guess technically it was thee reviews!

I'm watching...

Great British Bake Off is back! Thank goodness! A food show about food where the people act like decent human beings. We are now watching the tenth series.  I think I have been watching the show since series two (I even posted about series three six years ago) but I have seen all ten series, and I am always happy to watch whichever season is on whenever it is on. But it's not only Great British Bake Off that I am addicted to. We also watch The Great Australian Bake Off with Matt Moran and Australian cooking legend Maggie Beer and last year we watched The Great Kiwi Bake Off too.

Last week I mentioned that My Kitchen Rules was back but the jury was out as to whether we would keep watching or not. My comment about Bake Off being a food show about food is probably in direct comparison to MKR where the food is the secondary part of the show these days. The main part of the shows seems to be manufactured drama between the contestants, between the judges, manufactured dating drama etc. I guess what I am saying is that it will be a bit of surprise if we make it through the whole series! Bring on Masterchef I say.

Speaking of food related viewing, I rewatched The Hundred Foot Journey this week. What a lovely movie it is. I first posted about this movie several years ago and it definitely hasn't lost its charm!


I've had a toothache all week which has been then causing headaches. I went to the dentist and he was surprised that I still have my bottom wisdom teeth. About 25 years ago I had an episode with my wisdom teeth and the dentist said that I may need to have them out but that was two weeks before I was leaving to move to the UK so I didn't end up doing anything about it. The next time they played up was seven years later and it was two weeks before I was moving from Adelaide to Melbourne so I didn't do anything then either. I am not planning to move so no idea why they are playing up now.

We went to the ordination of a friend who is becoming a deacon/minister of the Anglican church. It was a much more formal church service than I have been to for a long time. One of the interesting things was that they made a couple of small changes due to the Coronavirus crisis. The first was that they said during the part where you turn around and greet the people around you that you should only say hello rather than shake hands with everyone and they made some changes to communion.

We finally finished booking all of our accommodation for our trip. I love planning a trip, the things you are going to be doing, the sites, the anticipation of going on holiday! I do not, however, enjoy the finding accommodation part of planning, and this time I found the Paris particularly hard. Because there are going to be three  of us for that part of the trip, we needed to ensure that there was privacy, and then there's which part of Paris to stay in, how to stay within the arbitrary budget my husband has in mind (which I possibly would have been a bit more generous with). I can't even actually remember which arrondisement we are going to be staying in! Let's just say I'm glad that this part of the planning is done now! Back to the fun stuff now. And yes, I know, it's a nice problem to have!

Posts from the last week

Top Ten Tuesday - Books from my TBR that I hope will be 5 star reads
Statues and Silos - interesting sights from home and abroad
Weekend Cooking - Lots of baked goods.

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Queen Baking Club

In addition to my baking adventures with Bakeitbox, I have been a member of the Queen Baking Club on Facebook pretty much since it began. This group sets a fortnightly challenge  for it's  members to attempt, and it is another good way to challenge yourself to step outside your normal cooking comfort zone.

A while ago I posted about the challenges I had made by that time.

Since then I have made the following challenges, some more successfully than others. This is the challenge list so far:

1. Classic Queen Vanilla Slice - Joined just after the first challenge so didn't make this one.
2. Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake - posted recipe here
3. Coconut Rough Magic Cake - see the photo here
4. Mermaid Cupcakes - didn't make this one
5. Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake - see the photo here (so good)
6. Creamy Gingernut Cheesecake - see the photo here (made this one a couple of times now!)
7. Strawberries  and Cream Sheet Cake - see the photo here
8. Oozing Eyeball Marshmallow Slice - see the photo here  (and yes, this was for Halloween)
9. Skeleton Gingerbread - didn't make this one.

And now some with pics

10. Easy Vanilla Bean Fudge
11. Baklava Slice - have made this several times and it is always a hit. See the photo here
12. Eton Mess Passionfruit Cheesecake - our Christmas dessert in 2018
13. Chocolate Salami/Soft Chocolate Gingerbread Biscuits - I didn't make the salami but I did make the Gingerbread biscuits (you can see the recipe here).  I have now made this several times.

14. Red Velvet Cheesecake Trifle - love red velvet cake, cheesecake and trifle but  it didn't work for me all together.
15 Classic Queen Vanilla Slice (with a Twist) - I can't remember what the actual twist was. My twist was I made my own rough puff pastry, which I was pretty proud of.

16. Honey Jumbles -based on classic Aussie biscuits. I had never tried them before but after making these I bought a packet. The homemade ones were much better!
17. Raspberry and White Chocolate Pound Cake

18. Gluten Free Fudge Cookies - a big hit with my friends, both those who can tolerate gluten and those who can't
19. Persian Drizzle Cake

20. Rich Chocolate Mud Cake -  I thought I made this one but maybe not.
21. Maple Butter Date Loaf - so good!
22. Vanilla Bean Glazed Hot Cross Bun - didn't make these. Had tried and failed to master hot cross buns around the same time.
23. Vanilla Custard Magic Cake - didn't make this one as I had made a Bakeitbox previously for a similar recipe.
24. Strawberry Cookie Dough Cupcakes - didn't make this one
25. Classic Red Velvet Cake - made the cupcake version of this

26. Pumpkin Pecan Pie Muffins - didn't make this one
27. Vanilla Bean Snickerdoodles - so good!
28. Best Ever Chocolate Cake

29. Double Vanilla  Portuguese Tarts  - possibly my favourite thing to have made so far.
30. Gluten and Dairy Free Brownies - didn't make this one
31. Cinnamon Doughnut Baby Cakes - pretty much mini doughnuts

32. Citrus Syrup Cake - I don't think I made this one as I already have a favourite syrup cake recipe
33. Vanilla, Ricotta and Almond Cake with Poached Fruit - didn't make this one
34. Dark Choc Peanut Cookies
35. Perfect Banana Cake

36. Rainbow Buttercream Cupcakes - mine aren't  exactly rainbow, but I was taking them to work for a pre wedding celebration and the bride's colour was teal.
37. Soft Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies - a repeat but well worth it given how delicious they are
38. Peppermint Oreo Fudge/Festive Gingerbread Fudge - didn't make either of these ones
39. Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies - didn't make this one
40. Tim Tam Fudge - didn't make this one either
41. Iced Vovo Cupcakes - inspired by a classic Australian biscuit these are raspberry and coconut cupcakes

And now we are up to date!

Are there any of these recipes that catch your eye? Have you joined this kind of group with regular challenges? How do you challenge yourself to try new things?

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.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Statues and silos!

In my post last week I mentioned that we had recently visited a town colloquially known as Cowtown, and all down the main street there were a lot of painted statues of cows.

It got me thinking about the other statues we have come across both at home and on our travels, so I thought I would have a bit of fun by sharing some photos from various locations.

My interest in this kind of thing started with the baby elephant named Mali. Back in 2012 there were 50 painted elephants all around Melbourne to celebrate the birth of a baby elephant named Mali at the Melbourne Zoo. There was a map to help you find all of them, and my goodness, I walked all over this city so that I could say that I found them all.

When my son was in America for college he lived in a small town called Concordia in Kansas. In that town, there is a museum for the Orphan Trains remembering those children that were relocated from the East Coast to the midwest. All around Concordia there are statues representing some of the stories of the children involved. Whilst they aren't painted it was interesting to wander around this small town in Kansas and read some of the stories.

The first time we went to visit him, we had to drive from Concordia from Wichita, and along the way we stopped in a town called Lindborg in Kansas. The town claims to be Little Sweden, and all around the town there are painted wooden horses, known as dala. In addition to being a beautiful little town, there was also an awesome coffee shop there!

In Wichita, there is a large statue called The Keeper of the Plains. It looks amazing on a beautiful autumn day and spectacular when it is lit up at night. At the time we visited Wichita, there were mini versions scattered throughout the city. I say mini but they were all 10 foot tall painted statues. With limited time, we obviously didn't have time to find all of them, but we did find a couple of them.

Just in case you think that this is all about America, when we were in Capetown in South Africa, we stumbled across some painted rhinos at the docks in Capetown. Such a beautiful place.

 Whilst I have been talking about mini things, we have also spent some time wandering around the western part of Victoria looking at the painted silos that are out there. In due course we intend to go looking for more of these all round the country. We have seen maybe 6 silos, but all up there are about 35 across the country, and it turns out that there are 40 painted water towers as well. I feel a road trip coming on to go and look for some more of these

We did stumble across another painted silo when we were in Albany a month or so ago too.

I love these painted silos and can't wait to see more. As you can see from the video below there are some amazing pieces of art out there waiting to be appreciated

Have you come across some fun statues or something similar to the silos either in your home town or on your travels?


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