Saturday, 22 May 2010

Emptying the Pantry: Part Four - Beef and Barley Soup

By rights, this one should be about carrot cake buuuuuut I got so carried away cooking (and eating) it that I forgot to take photos.

That happens to me a lot.

I don't know if it helps, but it actually looked quite a lot like it did in the CWA Country Classics cookbook. It's quite unusual for things to come out looking like the pictures, so it was proud moment for me! The cream cheese icing was actually a little bit sweet for my liking, but the hint of honey in it was divine. Next time I think I'll up the cream cheese content and lower the level of icing sugar.

Oh yes, there WILL be a next time!

This recipe is pretty unexciting (but tasty!), as healthy savoury things often are, and I must say I'm a little disappointed by the fact that it contained but three ingredients from my cupboard. The exciting part, however, is that I was FINALLY able to get some use out of my latest AWW cookbook - The Complete Cook. Like the write-up says, it has a lot of useful information about the fresh ingredients, but I find the layout a little frustrating. I think perhaps that you need a chef's imagination to truly appreciate it, as a chef would be able to decide on what ingredient he or she wanted to dominate a course, and then complement it with another ingredient in the following course, and so on. I think the layout is a little advanced for your average punter, but still has heaps of yummy recipes and looks pretty next to "Cook", "Kitchen" and "Bake". I'm a little surprised they went with a blue cover again, though, but pleased that they wrapped it in plastic this time! (And yet annoyed that they didn't think of it for the previous three books). And, as it turns out, it comes in handy when you're trying to clean out your cupboards and use up specific ingredients!

1 tbsp olive oil
500g gravy beef, trimmed, diced (2cm cubes) <-- I used ready-diced steak and it worked fine
2 medium brown onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4c pearl barley
3c beef stock
1.5L water
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 medium potaoes, diced (1cm pieces)
2 medium carrots, diced (1cm pieces)
2 medium zucchini, diced (1cm pieces)
2 medium yellow patty-pan squash, diced (1cm pieces) <-- nowhere to be found; ommitted
100g swiss brown mushrooms, chopped coarsely
1/2c finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
That's a lot of ingredients, huh?
Here's what I had...
... and here's what I didn't have.
Oh! OH!!! I haven't introduced you to The Piranha yet!!!
Look at its teeth.
I see beauty in their viscous glinting!
Well, okay, not really, but it peels like a mofo!
As it turns out, my life was incomplete without it. Get it here (dangerous, dangerous online kitchenwares store that allows you to make a wishlist... be afraid... be VERY afraid...)
Actually, that's not true. My life was pretty well complete without it, but it sure makes life easier. AND, you can cut your carrots into nice fat ribbons for sandwiches and salads and stuff. These things are important to me. I have yet to test it on cucumber but the Force is strong in this one so I'm sure it will be fine.
1. Heat half oil in large saucepan; cook beef, in batches, until brown. Remove
2. Heat remaining oil in same saucepan; cook onion and garlic until onion softens. Return beef to pan with barley, stock, water, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme, bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmmer, covered, about 1 hour or until beef and barley tender, skimming the fat occasionally
3. Add remaining vegetables to soup; simmer, covered, about 25 mins or until vegetables softened. Remove and discard bay leaf, rosemary and thyme
4. Serve bowls of soup sprinkled with parsley
The nutritional information at the bottom of the page says this has 8.8g total fat (2.6g saturated) which is pretty good. I only mention this because it took a bloody eternity to reheat in the microwave!!! (In case you hadn't figured it out for yourself, fatty stuff heats up much faster. For example, you can melt cheese in under 30 seconds, but it took at least 5 minutes for me to heat a bowl of this soup up) So here it is - reheated and messy on my desk at work. Sooooo goooood! If only I'd had some nice fresh crusty bread to go with it...

Spray-On Pants

Last night I wore my skinny jeans with a pair of knee-high boots to the cinema. It was cold, and that lower-body combination is one of the warmest things you can wear. I realised when I got home that it was time to purchase a new pair of skinny jeans, on account of the fact that the ones I was wearing were incredibly saggy and, in short, about a kilometre too big for me (unsurprising, really, given that I've shed nearly 10kg since I bought them). Not really the look you go for when you're wearing skinny jeans.

So today I went to the shops and picked out two styles of skinny jeans. I tried on a pair of 12s first, seeing as that was the size pants I was wearing at the time. No go. Then a pair of 14s. Still no luck. I panicked for a second or two, and then realised that one style was super-skinny, and the other, were in fact, jeggings.

Jeggings are a crime against humanity. I can't even begin to tell you how many things are wrong with them. Suffice it to say I struggled to get them - and the super-skinny jeans - beyond mid-thigh. Okay, that's not true. One of the styles I couldn't actually get far enough up my legs for the crotch to sit less than about 30cm from where it ought to. Apparently they are designed for people with the body of a 12-year-old (which, let's face it, I didn't even have as a 12-year-old), so, you know, not me. I can accept that. I will look harder and find a pair of non-super-skinny, non-jegging, non-spray-on skinny jeans sooner or later. But what completely boggles my mind is seeing larger girls wearing jeggings who really shouldn't be. I suspect that these are the same girls who wear teensy, tiny, inappropriately short shorts in summer. By all appearances, these girls either got their friends to hold the jeans up on one side of the room, took a flying leap and got into their jeans that way, or they were sewn in, and I suspect a similar thing has gone on with the short shorts.

So run it past me why, when I was their age, they didn't even make skinny jeans and short shorts in anything above a size 12 (every now and then you'd get lucky and find a 14, but it was rare), and yet now it is a perfectly acceptable practice. I realise the irony of my objection, given that the original jeans were a size 16, and I'm all for embracing your body, whatever its shape, but I'm also all for dressing in a flattering manner, a concept completely lost on these girls. This is why I'm not going to buy another pair of skinny jeans until I can find some that I don't need the assistance of a novelty-sized shoe horn to get myself into.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Emptying the Pantry - Part Three: Chocolate Banana Bread

I am particularly proud of my second foray into my EtP Challenge - every single ingredient here was already in the cupboard or the fridge/freezer.

I got the recipe from the AWW website. They have this nifty meal-maker recipe widget (I don't care if it's a mis-use of the word, cos I love that word), which as it turns out is very helpful when you need to find a way (actually, several ways) to use up an entire kilogram of wholemeal flour in a few short weeks!

The sea cucumber-looking things wrapped in plastic haemmoraging a mysterious pale brown liquid are frozen bananas. I put them in the freezer back in January because they were starting to turn and I knew I wouldn't have time to eat them fresh (they get to a certain point and the ethylene that is produced as they ripen makes me gag), and I LOVE frozen bananas in summer - they taste great and are far better for you than icecream. But this is a prime example of why you shouldn't leave things in the freezer forever...

Wow, I'm really struggling to keep my leftover Spaghetti Bolognese (sort of) down...

I feel a little Haiku coming on...
The banana wilts
Quietly, the girl vomits
Structureless and soft.
Oh no, no no no, I didn't mean that. As if I would ralph into a mixing bowl. Into a wok, maybe. A biscuit tin, perhaps. Actually, I have done both of those things (sometimes, when you're camping, you've gotta do what you've gotta do). True story. And colossal overshare. But no, not into a mixing bowl (maybe only because I don't bring them camping?). No no no, that's mashed banana! There's a fresh one in there too.
Heheh. This just keeps getting better. At this point I feel that it is only fair to inform you that this is a combination of banana, castor sugar, oil and egg. Nothing more.
I really am doing a top job of convincing you to try this recipe out, aren't I...
Anyway, this is where it gets confusing. See, I greased and lined my loaf pan like the instructions said.
This, by the way, is a virgin loaf pan.
Ne'er before had its smooth curves been filled by the soft warmth of a rising loaf. Grant bought it for me and it made me ridiculously, deleriously happy. Yup, I'm the kinda gal that gets excited over a $9 loaf pan. I really am that easy to please! FYI, he gets me way better stuff than $9 loaf pans too, but I just thought I'd use it to illustrate the point that the simple things in life - kitchen utensils included (especially) - make me happy. Oh, remind me to tell you a story about my awesome new vegetable peeler! It's called "The Piranha", and no, I didn't name it myself. But that's another story for another time.
Yes, I really am that sad.
Anyway, back to the instructions. I greased it like it said. And then I poured it in, checked the instructions again to see how long to bake it for, and went "uh-oh..."
I mean, I couldn't see a reason that the batter should go into two bar pans instead of one loaf pan (and I never realised there was a difference between a bar pan and a loaf pan, although having just Googled it, a bar pan isn't at all what I think it is - some idiot has patented something that looks rather a lot like a lamington tin that had a baby with a Swiss roll tin, and called it a small bar pan. Freak. I would have thought that a bar pan was a skinnier loaf pan with straighter sides, kind of like in the AWW Birthday Cake Book, you know the pan that makes up the #1 numeral cake (wow, having sourced that link, that cake looks exactly the way I remember it!)? But apparently not) - the batter came about 2/3 the way up the tin, which is about right for a loaf batter, but I put a Swiss roll pan on the shelf below it, just in case it oozed over and things turned ugly.
Lucky for me, things didn't turn ugly. No, they turned quite beautifully, in fact.
And delicious.
PS - there's butter on it because I feel that few baked goods are complete without butter in some form. That is all.

Emptying the Pantry - Part Two: Spaghetti Bolognese (sort of)

I thought I'd start with something easy for my EtP challange - Spaghetti Bolognese. I already had these ingredients:
and then added these:

Fry chopped onion and garlic in olive oil. Smells gooooooood.

Add mince and Italian herbs (don't ask me which herbs, I just use the packet that says "Italian herbs" on it. I assume it contains basil and oregano but I have nooooo idea what else!) and brown, making sure there's no big lumps in it. Then add chopped capsicum, zucchini and mushrooms and cook for a bit (I like them to still be a little firm, so I don't cook them for too long, bearing in mind the tomatoes etc. in the next step still have to heat through).
Add a can of crushed tomatoes (or whole ones - just stick a knife in the tin and chop them up a bit first), whatever red wine you have lying about the place and some tomato paste.

Stir, simmer, serve with pasta and some grated parmesan cheese (I'm such a grub of a server. Sorry about that!).

Try not to lose half the pasta in the sink.

Unless you're eating on your own, that is, and it's going to last you five nights anyway if you DO tip half of it in the sink, in which case it is perfectly acceptable behaviour.

This recipe is adapted from the ol' faithful one that my mum taught me, the differences being that I add capsicum, zucchini and tinned tomatoes to make it less rich, and use fresh mushrooms instead of those tinned ones in butter sauce. But if you're after a super-rich bolognese, then it's just onions, garlic, herbs, mince, mushrooms in butter sauce and tomato paste. Makes a GREAT lasagne!

Emptying the pantry

I realised the other day that my lease expires on the 12th of June. There are several problems with that. One, I don't know where I will live next, or where I will work next for that matter! Two, I love the house I am living in (I promise I will walk you through it before I leave). And three, I have a hell of a lot of food in my cupboards that I don't really want to pack up and move.
So I have taken it upon myself to eat my way through it over the next three or four weeks. In many instances that will involve me baking something and then feeding it to others, but a lot of it will end up in my tummy. I did, however, wisely concede defeat in regards to the following items, in the certain knowledge I would never get through them on my own, and put them in a box in the lunch room at work for the vultures to attack (it was empty in about three hours):
- 1 full bag jasmine rice
- 1 bag pasta spirals
- two boxes cup-o-soup
- one thai noodle soup sachet
- two jars bruschetta topping (came in a hamper! Didn't buy it!)
- one jar quince jam (ditto)
- one can of baked beans (there are more in there but I'll keep them until stumps in case I run out of other forms of nourishment)
- one packet asian style fried rice (I have no idea why I bought this. I never eat fried rice and if I did I'm pretty sure I would have made it from scratch from the dregs in my cupboards!)
- four packets of pasta mixes (e.g. alfredo, carbonara)
I threw in the towel after I realised that just one packet of pasta lasted me five meals, and that was AFTER I accidentally tipped half of into the sink whilst draining it!

So I am now making it my mission to use up everything in the cupboards and the fridge before I move out (which may actually be before the 12th of June). I am finding it difficult so far to create savoury meals out of just what is in the cupboard, but baked goods are easy. I think it's because they don't require fresh ingredients.

Anyway, wish me luck, and if you happen to be lucky enought to work with me you'll probably be on the receiving end of a lot of what is to follow! Also, please don't judge me when we get to the end of this little experiment and I'm eating some seriously weird meals...