Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Heavy rain and cup cakes

The weather lately is being really sporadic, it's been rainy and cool for about 2 weeks and then it got quite hot and sunny, and today it turned rainy again. The rain today was so heavy that our house nearly got flooded. But lucky it slowed down.

Me and kids ended up stuck at home again so we decided to do some craft, drawing and card making :) And later in the afternoon we baked cup cakes.

Here are the pictures of today:

Rain in our backyard

(: Yummy cup cakes :)

Chinese style beef stir fry with broccoli sprouts

500g lean beef steak cut into thin stripes
250ml Honey, soy and garlic marinade
1 carrot, chopped
1 brown onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finelly chopped
a handful of baby corn
a handful of baby asparagus
a handful of snow peas
a pack of fresh noodles (for 4 serves)
Chinese 5 spices
Ground cinnamon
Ground ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sesame seeds
Olive oil
Broccolli sprouts to serve

First, marinade the meat for at least half an hour before cooking.
Heat the oil in the fry pan. Fry onion and garlic, until golden, add beef and cook together for a few minutes, then add carrot and baby vegetables. Sprinkle it all with spices according to your taste. Cook until ready.
Prepare the noodles as it says on the back of the pack.
Serve all together with broccoli sprouts on the top.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Picture of the day

The weather all week was quite rainy, so we had to change all our plans for the week and stay at home instead of going out. However, it's a pleasure to spend some time in the garden on a rainy day.

So here is the picture of today, after a day spent outside in the dirt.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Green energy shakes or healthy smoothies

We all have read and heard a lot about how good and healthy leafy green vegetables are for our bodies. The dark green leaves contain a lot of very important vitamins and minerals which are essential for our healthy wellbeing. By eating dark green vegetables every day you can prevent some major medical problems and diseases in the future. It gives you boost of vitamins and energy for your every day life and supports you when you need to fight the sickness or tiredness.
What can be healthier than that!
But it can be difficult to eat those greens in big amounts through out the day. I used to put some in the salad, some on the side of the meal, some in the sandwiches.... but it's not as much as we need to eat per day.
Recently I read an article online about Green Shakes, they are the drinks, kind of smoothies, you can make out of all sorts of leafy greens (spinach, parsley, coriander, beetroot leaves, carrot leaves, mint, cucumber baby leaves, zucchini leaves, etc, etc), mixing them with fruit and veggies.

When I first heard about it I doubted myself. I am not a fan of vegetable juice and I don't like to wash up after using the juicer. But I decided to look into the idea and to read a bit more about the green shakes.
The great thing about them I read, was how simple it is to make them. You just have to have ingredients handy. The ingredients aren't hard to find either. It's pretty much anything you've got at home, as long as you use lots of leafy greens, combining them with fruit, vegetables and water. Don't use any nuts, milk, oils or sugar, because it can ruin the goodness of the drinks.
And you don't have to use the juicer! By using the blender instead you get to consume all the goodness, nothing gets thrown out.

So far, I only tried this for a few days, but I am loving it already!
The shakes I've made turned out to be very tasty, even my kids loved them. I have troubles feeding my daughter any vegetables at all, but she was quite happy to drink mummy's green smoothie!
I only used some simple ingredients to begin with, but I am going to try more variations and I will post the recipes here.

Today I am going to share two Green shake recipes.

Banana, parsley and spinach smoothie
Ingredients for 1 drink: 1 banana, a handful of parsley, a handful of baby spinach.
Method: Blend them all together until smooth, add a bit of water. Enjoy!

Pear, parsley and spinach
For 1 drink you'll need: 1 pear, a handful of parsley, a handful of spinach.
Blend it all together, add water and it's ready to drink!

You don't have to add water, you can even eat it with the spoon.
It's best if you have the smoothie on the empty stomach, so it can better digest.

Ricotta muffins with apricot sauce

300g low-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup self-raising flour, sifted
1 eggwhite
Apricot sauce:
1 tablespoon cornflour
405ml can apricot nectar

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 6-hole 1/3-cup capacity muffin pan. Using an electric mixer, beat ricotta, sugar, egg and vanilla until well combined. Stir in flour using a large metal spoon.
Using clean mixer, beat eggwhite in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Gently fold into ricotta mixture. Spoon batter into muffin holes until three-quarters full. Smooth surface of each cake.
Bake cakes for 20 to 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand in pan for 5 minutes.
Apricot sauce:
Blend cornflour and 2 tablespoons nectar to a smooth paste. Pour into a small saucepan. Add remaining nectar. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes or until sauce comes to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
Drizzle warm cakes with warm sauce. Serve.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sweet potato, asparagus and rosemary frittata

1 big sweet potato, cut into medium chunks and roasted
4 asparagus spears, chopped
A fist full of sliced ham
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
6 eggs
1/3 cup of milk
Fresh chopped or dry chives
Salt and freshly ground  black pepper

Preheat the oven to 250C.
Lightly beat eggs and milk together in a medium sized bowl, sprinkle with chives, salt and pepper. Put aside.
Prepare a medium size oven bake dish. Chop up ham. Spread evenly sweet potato chunks, ham and asparagus over the bake dish. Pour the egg mixture on top and sprinkle with rosemary leaves.
Pop your dish in the oven on a highest rack. Cook until frittata is golden and ready.

Recipe is adaptable as low fat, just use fat reduced ham ;)

Award goes to:

This week I got a very plesent surprise, my blog recieved a very first award "One Lovely Blog Award"! I recived this award from Shannon from her wonderful blog Augmented Gem.
This award means a lot to me, as I only started writing my blog recently.
So I want to say a big thanks to Shannon! I really appretiate this!

There are rulles attached to this award, and I am happy to follow them.
So here they are:

1. Accept the award. Post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2. Pay it forward to 15 other bloggers that you have newly discovered.
3. Contact those blog owners and let them know they've been chosen.

I am happy to announce the names of the blogs that I have chosen to send this award to:

1. Tidy mom
2. Dear daisy cottage
3. Nostalgi' art
4. NYC Island Gal
5. This is the life
6. Amanda + Don
7. My shabby streamside studio

Well, I know, it's not 15 blogs. But as I said, I'm only a beginner here and I have not got to know too many blogs yet. So here is my chose for today.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Amazing sand animation by Ukrainian artist

Another fantastic and powerful work by Ukrainian artist Kseniya Simonova.
There's no words to describe it

Amazing sand animation by Ukrainian artist

I have discovered a video on youtube of Ukrainian artist painting by sand an amazing life like pictures and animated stories which reflect emotional and heavy subjects of life, love, war, ordinary people and great history of nations.
I could not go past it. Her artworks are so powerful, they touch your heart, you can't watch it without emotions...

The artist has got so much inspiration and passion, her paintings are just like movies, but the realism and the depth of the subjects, which she uses as themes for her artworks are even more astonishing.

You have to see it for yourself. It's awesome!

Movie night

I quite like to watch scary movies at night on my own, adds to the atmosphere :)
Tonight's movie left a very good impression, and sure was creepy! Just as I like it.

The movie I watched today was "Hide and Seek" 2005, psychological thriller film, starring Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning.

The movie starts as a wife of a New York psychologist Dr. David Callaway kills herself in a bathtub, leaving her husband and a young daughter Emily dealing with grief and trauma.
Both father and daughter decide to temporarily move out from home to an old style house further away from the city. There Emily befriends a strange imaginary friend named Charlie, who causes a series of disturbing incidents. David gets worried about his daughter, tried to talk to her, but Emily doesn't want to assist him with any specific details about her friend. When "Charlie" causes death of a local woman Elizabeth, who David meet in town earlier, the story line changes and picks up a new unexpected turn.

The beginning of the movie is quite sad, but the following sequence of events builds up suspense pretty quickly. The movie gets your imagination going and makes you wonder what is actually going on, right until the end bit. Creepy moments and suspenseful music are very well done and keep you on the edge of your seat.
There were a few logic faults in the story line as well, but nothing too frustrating. The culmination was lacking a bit of originality (in my opinion, it was a big downfall of the whole movie). However the ending bit made up for it.
So in summary, all together we've got a pretty fine scary movie, full of suspense and tension as it suppose to be.
I would rate it 4 stars out of 5.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Indian Butter Chicken curry

I have tried out quite a few recipes of butter chicken, and this one is very-very close in taste and fragrance to what you can get in a good Indian restaurant.
The main part of the recipe here is taken from Indian style cook book. I also have made a few small changes myself according to my own taste. 

The quickest way to prepare butter chicken is to buy ready-cooked tandoori chicken.
Otherwise start with the tandoori chicken recipe.
You can make this dish as hot as you like, depending on the amount of chilli powder you include.

First step. Tandoori chicken
You can't expect this dish to be the same as it is served in the Indian restaurant. It would be impossible to achieve, unless you've got a tandoori oven at home. However, as the author of the book promises, this recipe comes close, especially if you marinate the chicken for a day before cooking.

1 chicken ( approx 1,5 kg), skinned
1/2 lemon
1 tsp salt
30 ml of sunflower or olive oil
Tandoori masala paste:
1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
1 tbsp ground paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/4 tsp chilli powder, ideally Kashmiri chilli powder
pinch of ground cloves
1/4 tsp edible red food colouring (optional)
a few drops of edible yellow food colouring (optional)
200 ml natural yogurt

To make a Tandoori masala paste, combine the garlic and ginger paste, dry spices and food colouring (if using) in a bowl and stir in the yogurt. You can use the paste now, or store in the container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Use a small knife to make thin cuts all over the chicken. Rub the lemon half over the chicken, then rub the salt into the cuts. Put the chicken in a deep bowl, add the paste and use your hands to rub it all over the bird. Cover the bowl with the clingwrap and pop in the fridge for at least 4 hours, ideally up to 24 hours.

When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Put the chicken on a rack in a roasting tray, breast side up, and drizzle with a bit of oil. Roast for 45 minutes. Then quickly remove the roasting tray form the oven and turn the temperature to it's highest setting.
Very carefully pour out any fat from the bottom of the tray. Return the chicken to the oven and roast for the further 10-15 minutes, until the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh with a knife and the paste is lightly charred.

For a quicker version, use the chicken breasts or thighs. Marinate as above, preheat the oven to 230C/450F/Gas8 and roast for about 40 minutes.

After the chicken cools down, it's time to make Butter Chicken.

Step two. Butter Chicken curry recipe
Most of ingredients for the butter chicken sauce here I copied from the Curry cook book, some I added myself. But realistically, it's all depends on your taste. You can adjust amount of spices according to your own preference and make it perfect for yourself. Use your senses, vision, touch and taste and experiment until you achieve desired.

1 cooked tandoori chicken cut into pieces
(you can also use cooked tandoori chicken breasts or thighs)
1 brown onion chopped
1 1/2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
400g canned chopped tomatoes
1/4-1/2 tsp chilli powder
pinch of sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
125 ml water
1/2 tbsp tomato puree
40g butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
4 tbsp double cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh coriander seeds
From myself I also added:
Pinch of cloves
2 cinnamon sticks

Put the onion and garlic and ginger paste in a food processor, blender or spice grinder and whiz together until a paste forms. Add the tomatoes, chilli powder, sugar and a pinch of salt and whiz again until blended.

Heat the oil in the wok or large fry pan over a medium-high heat. Add the tomato mixture and water and stir in the tomato puree.
Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring, then reduce the heat to very low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens.
Stir in half the butter, the garam masala, cumin, coriander, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Add the chicken pieces and stir around until they are well coated. Simmer for about 10 minutes longer, or until the chicken is hot. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.

Lightly beat the cream in a small bowl and stir in several tablespoons of the hot sauce, beating constantly. Stir the cream mixture into the tomato sauce, then add the remaining butter and stir until it melts.
Taste the sauce and adjust the ingredients if necessary.

When ready, garnish with fresh coriander sprigs and serve while hot.

Butter chicken goes perfectly with rice and traditional Indian naan bread.
You can add a bit of turmeric or a small pinch of saffron to rice, while boiling to add it a nice colour.

Garlic and sultanas Indian naan bread


450g plain flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder (you can swap it for a 1/2 tsp of bi-cab soda drizzled with a bit of lemon juice)
1 egg
250 ml milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
add extra for oiling
A couple of handfuls of sultanas
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
Fresh chopped or dried coriander leaves
Coriander powder

Sift the flour, sugar. salt and baking powder (or bi-cab soda with the lemon juice) together into a large bowl. Whisk the egg and milk together and gradually add to the flour mixture, mixing it gently with the wooden spoon, until the dough is formed.
Transfer the dough to a clean working surface, make a slight depression in the dough and add the oil. Knead until the oil is absorbed by the flour and your dough is soft and pliable. Wrap it in clingwrap and leave to rest for an hour.

Divide the dough into 8 balls, flatten each ball, cover them all with clingwrap and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat the grill to high, line grill pan with a piece of foil and brush with oil.
To make naan bread, roll each of your dough pieces into a flat oval shapes.
Divide your sultanas and chopped garlic into 8 portions.
Press one portion of sultanas and garlic into the surface of one naan bread, sprinkle it with coriander leaves and coriander powder.
Transfer prepared naan bread into the grill. bake from one side until brown spots appear on the surface, then turn upside down and bake till ready.
Repeat with each naan bread.

Use skim or light milk to make it low fat.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Movie night

Friday night, I thought it would be a perfect time to relax and watch a movie. So my partner and myself hired out a few DVD's'. I picked up a couple for myself. One of them was called "Irreversible". Frankly, the title and the back of the DVD with the brief introduction intrigued me, I was looking forward to find out what the movie would be about.
Later when my kids fell asleep and my husband went on the computer, I sat down in the lounge-room, in anticipation to see it.

Well, what can I say. I wish they'd describe at least a little bit of the storyline, so I wouldn't have touched it at all. The movie turned out to have a very heavy and disturbing content based around sexual violence. Just the opening scene itself was too aggressive and intensively hard to watch. It sure does "grab you by your throat", but I honestly could not go past the beginning. I was not sure, whether or not to continue, so I looked up the web for the movie reviews, and I have found out that the movie touches different aspects, such as: love, sex, rape, violence, crime and prostitution. As I have read, the hardest part of the film was the disturbing and brutal rape scene.
To be honest I don't see the point of making movie so shocking that it almost impossible to watch.

You have to be desensitised to be able to watch it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Father's Day Special

"Life doesn’t come with an instruction book, that’s why we have fathers."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
On Sunday our family was celebrating Father's Day.
Me and kids started preparing for this occasion a day before, secretly, while my husband was busy on computer, we gathered in the lounge-room, I got out my paints, paper, scissors and glue, we were making a card for our dear Daddy. Painting with kids was lots of fun, but it was a lot of mess too though :)
On actual day I got up early in the morning and baked fresh blueberry muffins for the morning coffee.
For dinner I decided to make my hubby his favourite meal: Indian Butter Chicken with Naan bread, all of it from scratch for the first time. It took me whole day to organize everything, marinate chicken, bake bread, cook and finely prepare this wonderful dish. But in the end, we had a beautiful meal for Father's Day dinner.

P.S Butter Chicken recipe is coming soon!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Spring is here!

It's the first day of spring in the Southern hemisphere. The air is getting warmer, the sun is shining, flowers are blooming! Time to celebrate!
Perfect time to bake some party cup cakes! And then go outside and have a picnic or a party with the family or friends! Or go to the beach!

Tea-party cup cakes

This is a great recipe of party cup cakes, I found this one in one of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks. My kids love them! 

Makes 18

Ingredients for the cake mix:
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g self-raising flour
225g caster sugar
4 large free-range eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
Icing sugar
A bit of water or lemon juice
Food colouring
Cocoa powder

Preheat your oven to 190C/350F/gas4. Place 18 paper cases into your muffin tins.
Beat the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each one well before you add the next, then fold in the flour and lemon zest. Evenly spoon your mixture into your paper cases. Put the muffin tins into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until ready. You can check if the muffins are cooked by sticking a wooden skewer into one of them. When you take it out, it should come out dry.
When they are cooked, remove them from the oven and let the cakes cool down.

Now, it's time for the fun part! Making icing!
Here you can do anything you like.
I have made a simple icing out of icing sugar and water, combining it with a different food colourings or cocoa powder, or lemon juice.
But you can also make fresh fruit icing, for example, by mixing fresh or frozen berries with icing sugar.
You can make only one type of icing or lots of different ones, you can also decorate them as desired.
Experiment the way you like!