Monday, August 30, 2010

Recipe: Pumpkin Soup with Ox Tail

Last weekend, Woolworths was selling whole pumpkins for $2 and that's a BARGAIN! Naturally, I grabbed one for myself and it must weigh over 2kg and Ox Tail was on special too! I was one very happy gal and combined both of them into a most delicious soup!

It was so delish that we both had seconds straight away and trust me, it will take your breathe away.

Pumpkin Soup with Ox Tail serves 8


1kg ox tail
1kg pumpkin, skinned - cored - cut into chunks
2 large carrots, cut into chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into chunks
2 large tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 large brown onion, cut into chunks
1.5 litre of hot chicken stock
2 tbsps rock salt / to taste

  1. In a large deep stainless steel pot, add all your ingredients and cook on high for 30 minutes with lid half covering the pot. Turn down to low and cook for the next 3 hours OR
  2. In a large slow cooker, add all your ingredients and cook it on 'medium / auto' setting for the next 8 hours
  3. Serve hot immediately on its own

This soup is great for freezing and is suitable for re-heating in the microwave

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Drawer Organisation: No more mess!

The drawers in the ensuite and kitchen have been driving me up the wall for years. Why? Because I can never find anything in them due to the mess and every time one opens / shuts those drawers, the contents tend to move!

Over the years, those drawers have becomes spaces for 'junk' or other unmentionables that one does not want to have to look at / deal with until last weekend...when I bought a roll of non-slip mat that can be cut into whatever size of shape I desire!

As I was too embarressed to take photos of what those drawers looked like 'before', please use your own imagination because I will only be showing you the 'after' results!

The Ensuite

This is my everyday drawer. See that light brown coloured mat with little holes? That's the non-slip mat which I have cut down to size (after cleaning my drawer with non-toxic cleaner).

Before: This drawer was filled with all sorts of crap from packets of facial cotton pads, numerous free sample of products and other unmentionables.

After: Only the daily essentials are in this drawer. With this mat, the contents no longer move! They stay in the same spot! I love that it's organise, clean and that I can see everything!

This is Jared's drawer which contains his essentials.

Before: It was filled with electronic products, boxes of clean ear buds and other unmentionables.

After: Only what he needs. I have thrown out so much stuff from both our drawers - about 4 plastic bags full of useless crap that we have not used in years and products that have expired!

This is my half of the "beauty" cabinet located next to the drawers.

Before: Oh my! I could never tell what was really in this space because of its depth. Yes, I removed a lot of stuff that I have not used and will never use.

After:There's only products and goods that I will use and they are organise according to its category!

The Kitchen

This is the third drawer and also previously known as the 'junk' drawer where bits and pieces of kitchen ware is randomly chucked in.

Before: It was an embarressment. Everything was stuck together - all the kitchenware were jammed together because there was so much!

After: Many items have been thrashed and only the essentials are kept. See, now we can see everything.

This is the fourth drawer and one that was thoroughly forgettable because...

Before: It contained everything that you see now PLUS heaps more crap like postcards, mobile phone chargers, etc. It was difficult to open and shut this drawer.

It's no longer forgettable!

It has been 4  days and so far, so good!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Recipe: Roast Lamb with Roasted Vegetables

There I was on Tuesday afternoon (10th August) feeling sorry for myself because it was our 7th wedding anniversary and the husband was sick for the second time in three weeks. Who enjoys being sick right? Still, I was annoyed that of all the days, the 'bug' had to nestle itself into his system on this particular day! How annoyingly inconsiderate!

Since I am 'stuck' at home on this day and it is afterall, my wedding anniversary, I was determine to have a bloody good meal!

After picking up DVDs at the local rental shop, I went next door to the butcher to check out what's on offer. Specifically, lamb. He only had 1 leg of lamb left on this day and it was 2kg! We cannot possibly have 2kg leg of lamb so he very kindly cut into down to 800g for us to enjoy!

If you don't already know - I love lamb. I love looking, touching, cooking and eating lamb. It has a unique and robust flavour that makes my insides jump with joy!

Here's my fuss-free Roast Lamb with Roasted Vegetables!

Roast Lamb with Roasted Vegetables serves 2


Part 1
2 potatoes, cut into quarters
1 medium sized sweet potato, cut into bite size chunks
1 red spanish onion, cut into quarters
3 medium carrots, cut into bite size lengths
6 cloves of garlic
Generous amount of salt and pepper
Olive Oil to coat all the vegetables

  1. In a deep stainless steel bowl, combine all the ingredients and ensure that they are well-seasoned
  2. On a baking tray, line the vegetables as seen above

Part 2
800g rolled loin leg of lamb (without the bone)
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, cut into 3cm sticks
4 cloves of garlic, cut into slivers
Generous amount of salt and pepper
Olive Oil

  1. Pre-heat the fan forced oven to 190C (for at least 20 mins)
  2. Cut little slits all over the lamb and push in 1 rosemary stick and 1 garlic sliver. Season it generously with salt, pepper and olive oil
  3. Place the lamb on top of the vegetables - this is very important as it allows 'air flow' for the bottom of the lamb and prevents it from stewing in its own juices during roasting
  4. Cook in the oven for 1 hour 15 mins for well-cooked lamb. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes before carving

Part 3
Serve up with sides of peas, broccoli and mandatory, MINT SAUCE!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Recipe: Pea and Ham Soup

It was another cool and sunny winter's weekend here in Brisbane and that beckoned us early risers to get out and do something. We did just that. I took Jared out for a hearty hot breakfast on the waterfront at Manly before dropping him off at the Aero Club for a couple of hours - his 'boy time' and I went on my merry way.

While at the supermarket, I spotted some lovely smoked ham hock which is perfect for soup!

Pea and Ham Soup serves 6 - 8


2 kg smoked ham hock
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
400g cauliflower, broken into small florets
250g dried split green peas
250g frozen green peas
Water, enough to cover all the ingredients
Salt and Pepper

  1. In a deep soup pot, add all the ingredients + water including salt and pepper to taste. Cook on high for 20 minutes and simmer on low for 1 hour

  2. Remove the ham hock from the pot onto a another dish. Fork the meat (which will be falling apart), remove the skin and return the meat into the soup pot. Cook on low for another 20 minutes or until all the ingredients have softened. Add salt and pepper to taste

  3. Serve immediately on its own or with crusty bread on the side
This is a great soup / meal that can be frozen in smaller batches for later consumption and is suitable for re-heating in the microwave

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Recipe: Spaghetti with Ricotta, Spinach and Rocket

On our way home last night, my better half told me that he did not desire any meat for dinner and on the menu for dinner was BBQ Rump with pan-fried squashed potatoes topped with shaved parmesan and steamed medley of vegetables. the test. What can I prepare that does not involve meat?

When we got home, I quickly jumped on the elliptical (my first cardio workout for the year - how awful am I?!) for 15 minutes - got to start slow and build it up by 10% every 3 days or else, I will give up very quickly.

Anyway, that was a side track and information that you didn't really need to know.

There I was standing in front of the refrigerator checking out the potential ingredients when I spotted the tub of low fat ricotta! An idea came to mind and that's how the following meal came to fruition.

Spaghetti with Ricotta, Spinach and Rocket serves 4 - 6

500g low fat Ricotta
100g spinach leaves
100g rocket leaves
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, just the leaves
Plenty of salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 packet of spaghetti, cooked till al dente in salted water
1/2 cooking liquid from spaghetti

  1. In a deep serving bowl, add ricotta, lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and taste. Add more salt and pepper if desired

  2. Drain the cooked spaghetti and add it to the ricotta mixture in the deep serving bowl. Mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients including the remaining olive oil and cooking liquid. Mix well

  3. Serve immediately on its own
This is great as an accompaniment to a main meal such as grilled red meat

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In 6 days...

...we'll be celebrating our 7th Wedding Anniversary (this year also mark's our 10th year of 'exclusivity').

Reflecting on our journey thus far makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. We continue to enjoy a wonderful friendship, an even better marriage through ups and downs, support each other's endeavours and most importantly, kindness and love. That is not to say that we agree with each other all the time!

Here're some highlights of our lives so far, in dot point:

  • Met for the first time at the midnight premier of 'Star Wars I' in May 1999

  • Started dating in January 2000 and moved in together within months. Our first overseas holiday to New Zealand when I learnt to snow ski!

  • Long distance relationship in 2001 when I moved back to Singapore upon completion of degree. Bought our first home together later that year

  • Obtained my Aust PR in February 2002 and secured full-time employment in April

  • I started on a new job in March 2003 and was married in August 2003. Honeymoon in the South Island of New Zealand and the construction of our new home commenced in October

  • Sold our first home in January 2004 (which we very nearly paid off its mortgage in full) and moved into our newly constructed home in April. Celebrated our 1st Wedding Anniversary

  • Our 'addiction' for snow skiing and New Zealand (both the North and South Islands) saw us returning bi-annually / annually from 2005 - 2007 + annual trips back to Singapore to visit family (yes at least 2 international holidays annually!)

  • 2008 was pretty much the same - worked hard and played harder!

  • Paid off the mortgage of our home in December 2009

  • I obtained my driver's licence (about time!) and will be celebrating our 7th Wedding Anniversary
Where to from here?

  • That we continue to enjoy and love each other's company while working hard, undergoing many of life's unpredictabilities and planning for annual vacations
  • That we will take 12 months off work in three year's time for our 'big' holiday to Europe / Caanda - why wait till we are near retirement to do that?!
  • That our families and dear friends continue to be healthy and happy

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Working Gal's Food Organisation 101

From time to time, I've been asked how one is able to produce at least 20 meals a week and thought I'd share some of those tips with you. You may already have implemented them in your life - it would be lovely to hear affirming comments and also some of your tips too!

Tip 1: Shopping Seasonally
For those of us who live in countries with four seasons, we are incredibly blessed to be able to purchase the freshest produce at its optimum growing season, at competitive prices!

Tip 2: Knowing how much to buy
This is quite often rather trickly. Buy too much and one risks throwing out fresh produce at the end of the week (I hate this wasteful act). Over the years, I have learnt exactly how much to buy and it always brings me delight when there's hardly any fresh food left in the refrigerator by the end of the week!

Tip 3: Buying meat in bulk and freezing the rest
I am always on a look out for meat that is sold in larger quantities (e.g. a tray of 8 rump steaks instead of 2) because it is priced better, I am able to re-pack the "access" meat for other meals and they freeze well so long as you store them in zip lock bags and ensure that moisture does not get in!

Tip 4:
Preparing vegetables in advance
I am referring to vegetables that are hardy such as beans, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. I tend to cut them up and store them in zip lock bags so that they are ready for cooking. Saves time during the week!

Tip 5: Freezing soups and stews for later use
Every fortnight, I tend to make large servings of soups and stews that are not cream / coconut based / have potatoes in them. They freeze very well and is easy to re-heat either over the stove or in the microwave. In this photo, I have a container filled with lamb meatballs in home-made sauce and in the other, Ox tail soup.

Tip 6: Making sandwiches in advance
I tend to make 2 days worth of sandwiches at a time which we have for lunch in the office. It's cheaper and healthier to bring food from home! Most people make their lunches after dinner or in the morning before they head out to work. It's too tedious! Do it in advance. Stick to ingredients that do not perish (e.g. tomatoes, cucumbers). These sandwiches shown here have avocado, ham and spinach.

Tip 7: Preparing healthy and quick snacks
Here's one of our favourite snacks to bring to work. Hard Boiled Egg. They are wrapped in cling film for hygiene and transfer purposes. Again, I have cooked several in advance so all we have to do is put 1 on our lunch bag. I always have a big bowl of fruit sitting on the dinning table so we also grab 1 fruit each day.

Here are my tips and I hope you have enjoyed reading them. What do you do?

Update from my Kitchen Garden (finally!)

It's been awhile since I shared updates on my kitchen garden and it comes as no surprise that it has been neglected as we have been away plus being struck down with the viral plague, etc. However, I am now back on my feet and the weather is starting to warm up (too quickly for my liking).

About a month before we went away, I planted a selection of salad leaves and silver beet (even I wonder why I did that prior to being on holidays). Despite not watering / fertilising it, it has actually thrived on neglect!

What I need to do this weekend is to get on my hands and knees to get rid of those pesky weeds that have (almost) taken over the garden beds!

Recipe: Mushroom Risotto with Pancetta and Rocket

The past weekend went according to plan - one of relaxation and of spending time at home. As I was standing in my fridge and wondering what to make for lunch, I spotted three ingredients. Mushroom - Pancetta - Rocket! I love them and thought I'd whip up comfort food for Sunday Lunch.

Mushroom Risotto with Pancetta and Rocket serves 4

1 cup of Arborio Rice
1 clove of garlic, minced finely
1 white onion, minced finely
5 medium sized fresh button mushrooms, sliced thinly
100g Rocket leaves
8 slices of pancetta, pan fry till crispy
1 litre of chicken stock
 4 tbsps of Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a deep pan over medium heat, add olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds. Add Arborio rice and stir well for about 30 seconds. Add 1 ladel of chicken stock and stir well. Keep adding the stock every 15 seconds or so and until all the stock has been absorbed by the rice. This step will take approximately 20 - 25 minutes.

  2. Add all the mushrooms and stir well until soften. Turn off the heat and add half the rocket leaves and stir well.

  3. To serve, scope the risotto in a gorgeous bowl topped with pancetta and rocket leaves. Salt and pepper to taste.