Monday, September 29, 2014

Tis the Season to be Spooky - 4 ideas for decorations to get you started

I know halloween is more of a North American tradition, but its starting to pick up pace here in Australia. Personally, I love Halloween. It could be that I like to party and need a good excuse to dress up in costume, or it could be that its a time of year that I can hand out loads of lollies to my nieces, nephews, and friend's kids without a glare from their parents, making me feel guilty!

I have been holding Halloween celebrations for almost 7 years now. One year I was lying on my couch (Pinterest was not invented so I would lie on my couch in my spare time) and a light bulb went off! I decided to throw a Halloween party. I only had 2 weeks to prep, but I did it. So I decided to keep doing it and year after year family and friends continue to enjoy themselves so much that I am inspired to continue.  We moved house last year. We are in a bigger home, but smaller backyard. So this year I am thinking I should decorate my house and front yard. Here is some of my Pinspiration for what I am planning this year.
                                                                      Source


Packing tape ghost are all the rage. All you need is a willing model, packing tape and some glad wrap. You can add the lights, leave it el naturale, or paint it white. I will load pictures of my finished versions and you can determine whether I nailed it, or failed it!!



                                           Source

My garage isn't like this, but I do have windows that face out to the road that would look good with these on them. With some black cardboard or even paper for that matter, this is an easy and cost effective decoration.

                                                       Source

I've been looking forward to doing this one for a while now. I'm hoping to hang these on my front porch. There are hooks left from hanging plants so they will work perfectly.

                                          Source

Glow in the dark spray paint is a little hard to come by. I am going to try putting glow sticks in mine and see what happens. I am also going to paint some of the masks scary colours.  This is another decoration that is not too hard to do, you could even get the kids to help out.

So that is my short introduction into my Halloween preparations. Feel fee to follow my Halloween Board on Pinterest if you want to see more great ideas.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saucy Pork Spare Ribs - my secret is out!


Pork ribs are one of those things that have to be done right. I can't emphasis enough how the meat has to be tender and melt in the mouth. There is nothing worse than chewy meat that gets stuck in teeth, well there is, but work with me for a little bit.

About 8 years ago, I was sitting in a hotel in Edmonton Canada watching the Food Network because it was -25C outside. I had an 8 month old baby having his morning nap and I was armed with JalapeƱo Cheese Tostios, root beer - the real stuff, and double stuffed fudge dipped Oreos. I could watch as much TV as I wanted to watch and anything I wanted to watch. Flashback to one week earlier I was at home in balmy Sydney, Australia switching between Dora the Annoying Explora and the Koala Brothers to appease my other two kids. So I was in a little bit of heaven, even though I had never experienced any kind of weather that began with minus! This day was significant in my life because it was this exact day that I learned the art of making the best spare ribs known to mankind. I enjoyed ribs before, but really once the FoodNetwork opened my eyes to the truth, I realised I was just tolerating ribs!!

The secret to the best ribs, I am willing to share with you now. There is no need to overload on junk food while you read, nor is it necessary to watch snow fall nor is it necessary for it to be -25C outside, though hahaha, if it is!!  The secret is simple. Slow cook (on low) those babies in a bath of flavoured water for 4-6hours!  That is it. Then you carefully drown them in delicious sweet sauce (my own secret recipe) and bake them until the sauce caramelises and burns a little. Its the best way to enjoy pork ribs. As you eat them, you know it was meant to be and you have just been tolerating spare ribs in the past.

Ingredients
 4 racks of pork spare ribs
6-10 black pepper corns
4 bay leaves
4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons powdered chicken stock
2 onions quartered
4-6 cloves of garlic - whole
generous sprinkle of sea salt flakes.

My Secret Sauce
400ml Heinz Ketchup
200ml BBQ sauce (Aussie style)
3/4 - 1  cup brown sugar
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayene pepper (optional)
2 tbs white wine vinegar -

**please note when I make the sauce, I don't usually measure my ingredients so use this as a guide and taste before you use it. Ketchup needs to be the main character. You could use tomato puree if you wish, but then you would have to increase the amounts of the spices and other ingredients. You want to achieve a sweet, mildly savoury and spicy sauce. You have to have the brown sugar so the sauce caramelises and burns a little, but you can use honey if that floats your boat. **

What do I do?
Place the ribs in your slow cooker. My slow cooker is quite large, so if yours is smaller you might want to cut up your ribs to fit. Place all ingredients in then mix the chicken stock powder with the warm water and pour over ribs. Ribs need to be submerged so add more if needs be. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. I have cooked on high before, but low really is better.

Turn oven on to 200C, make the sauce by add all ingredients and whisking it until combined and smooth. You could also whizz it up in your HMP or food processor.  Line a baking tray with foil. The ribs will be tender and break easily, so using tongs carefully place ribs on the lined baking tray. Spoon sauce to cover the ribs. Spray with some oil and place in oven for about 20mins.


I made these last night, but I didn't put enough brown sugar in because they didn't burn like I prefer them to. None the less, they were super tender and devourable - if that is a word, which computer is saying no! I married them with my Heart Attack potato bake. Everyone said yum as they licked there lips and fingers!



"Heart Attack" Potato Bake

If you are trying to be healthy look away now! I don't want to be responsible for tempting you into breaking your healthy eating streak! I dare say Michelle Bridges would have a heart attack just reading the ingredients for this potato bake and would no doubt suggest this be sin binned for eternity. Which actually might be convincing some of you even more that you should try this!! Ok, if you have been properly converted to the dark but delicious side of not so healthy eating, then please read on. This is not for the faint hearted and I have to tell you, I actually softened this up from the recipe I was using as inspiration. The other recipe overloads on cheese. I do love cheese, but when you are adding both pure cream and sour cream already to a sauce, the healthy voice in me talked me out of adding the mountains of grated cheese that the other recipe called for.  But if you so wish to add cheese, refer to the link for directions. This potato bake is super tasty and creamy, basically because I used cream! I had family over so for me, I had to make a large amount. Cut it down to suit your needs, but I can testify that it tastes good the next day!

Ingredients
2 kg of potatoes, peeled and cut into discs - thick not thin (personal preference)

500g bacon diced into squares - I used short cut, but if I had middle cut bacon I would trim so fat.

Green onions/ shallots three stalks - diced

200ml pure pouring cream

1/2 cup sour cream

2 cloves garlic minced

table spoon of wholegrain mustard

salt and pepper to taste

1-2 cups of grated cheese.


What to do

Rinse potatoes in cold running water and then boil them on the stove top until tender. Drain and place in a large deep baking dish and spread to fit entire dish. Pre heat oven to 190C

Add some olive oil to hot frying pan and add bacon. Cook until brown and crisp. Add garlic and stir through until fragrant. Add shallots and cook though. Lower heat a little and pour in cream and sour cream. Stir around and add wholegrain mustard. **When I make this again, I will actually add some chicken stock for a little extra flavour. This is optional, but I think it would give a little boost to the mixture.*** Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Pour mixture over potatoes in baking dish. Sprinkle cheese over potatoes and spread evenly but thickly and put in oven for 20mins or until cheese is browned.  Enjoy as your calorie counter explodes as you devour this!


I paired this scrumptious side with my enviable Secret Saucy pork spare ribs.

Easy 'n' Healthy Baked Vegetarian Meal - So versatile

I know I rave on about my HMP and how it and any thermal cooking machine for that matter can make life easier for you in the kitchen, I still cook using my oven and stove top. Old habits are hard to break. This meal I am going to share with you is so easy, healthy, and versatile. You can use whatever ingredients take your fancy or what is in season. I make this meal sometimes the night before work and have it cold as a salad. Its always good to break up the week with vegetarian based meals, I don't think we are supposed to eat meat every day of the week. So I add in non-meat and vegetarian meals at least 3 times a week. It helps with variety and also with the budget.

Ingredients - as a guide

2 carrots chopped
1 medium sweet potato
1/2 onion
1 zucchini
4 mini capsicums - or 1-2 regular sized (peppers for the Yanks)
4 tomatoes  - this is a staple add for me. I don't particularly like fresh tomatoes, but splash some oil, sprinkle some seasonings and bake 'em in the oven and I can down them by the kilo!!


What to do
Preheat oven to 190C

Chop all ingredients into small but chunky pieces

Spread evenly on baking tray


Spray with oil

Season with sea salt flakes, pepper, and oregano and toss to coat.

Bake for 15 mins, take out and toss veges around with some red wine vinegar (optional). Spray more oil if you need to. Bake further until cooked through and browning. Another approx 15-20mins.


Allow to cool and then serve with cooked quinoa, rice,  or toss some baby spinach leaves through. Make sure you get all the juices in and you can sprinkle in some more red wine vinegar - or whatever vinegar takes or fancy. Voila, an easy to prepare meal that is extremely versatile, and just as delicious the next day.

I also wanted you show with you one of my latest purchases. This oil sprayer from Decor. I purchased this at Big W for about $12. It's one of those purchases that make me glad that I got it each time I use it. It's nothing like the aerosol cans you purchase.You can refill it and it sprays a generous amount. I found with the spray oil I was purchasing from the supermarket that I was foaming my fry pan at times just so I could get a reasonable amount to get something cooking. Anyway, I highly recommend it.



Monday, September 15, 2014

Brave

The picture on my personal Facebook page was over 3 years old. Each time I logged in I would tell myself to update it, but I never did until yesterday. I searched and searched for a photo of myself, which was really hard. Why don't I take photos of myself or allow people to take photos of me? Once upon a time I loved photos and I wanted to be a photographer. Then I chose a different path and insecurities snuck in and I allowed them to stay.

I have often struggled with how I look. For those who know me, you may think this strange because I am quite confident and I laugh most things off, and rarely hold grudges or at least not forever! I am a professional concealer! I don't like to show my feelings too much because in reality I am very emotional and I cry a lot over little things. This I know is not a bad thing, but it makes others uncomfortable and the thing I aim for in life is to make sure I don't upset or offend others - well as little as possible. The point I am making here, is that I put others before myself almost always. I don't often think of me, and when I do, I conceal. I have named this post Brave, because this is a big step for me. I am opening up about who I am and some of my insecurities are and by golly that's hard! One of the biggest insecurities I have is my outward appearance. Growing up I didn't feel I was pretty, and the times when I felt really pretty, I would see photos after the occasion and be disappointed that the photos didn't look pretty to me. I think part of this can be attributed to being an awkward teenager. I was a little on the chubby side, I had acne, I had glasses and braces all the ingredients that turn teenage boys on!! Though in some ways I am glad in hind sight (only) that I didn't have the worries of too much male attention, at least until I was 17. It gave me a chance to enjoy my teenage years in other ways and take my studies seriously, though in saying that, I was still distracted as I had terrible crushes on lots of men....not boys or teenage boys, I was always partial to the older man because they were all so mature!! Oh I can only just laugh now and shake my head!!!  While that is embarrassing in some ways, I have to admit there was a pattern. My first boyfriend was 2 years older than me. My second boyfriend was 5 years older than me. I've never really had a boyfriend the same age as me or younger. My husband is 2 years older than me too! Anyway, I have no idea why I bought this up?

Sometimes I write posts with one intent in mind and then my mind wonders and I get off topic....very much like my conversations, I have to work on this!! Now back to being brave. I feel I am brave because I am posting a picture of me. I took some time this morning to take a selfie or two. Something my kids do more often than I do the laundry - not a good comparison! I don't often like having pictures of me taken, let alone take a picture of me for a purpose. I want to change that. I am not going to be a Kim K or anything, I just want to be proud of me and what I am today, however I look. As we all know there is so much crap in our media about body image and the like. I think the problem with some mums are that we remember that once upon a time we were much slimmer and more active and we can't work out what went wrong? Well, I have had 4 kids and three of the kiddies were born via c-section (that weren't planned). C-sections don't do wonders for the body, let me tell you neither internally or externally! I got back in shape after the first two kiddies and the first C-section, and even after the third I wasn't as overweight as I currently am. I think life gets in the way and I've much prefered to sleep then wake up 1 to 2 hours earlier in the morning to fit exercise in. Anyway, I am working on that but I don't want Michelle Bridges or Weight Watchers to help me with that, I want to be able to do it on my own......I think!:)

The other reason why I am trying to be brave today, is so my daughter will see that her mum is happy with who she is. I want her to see that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, personalities, and abilities. We are all beautiful. Before I go I want to share with you something I shared on my FB feed from, Begin with Yes, the other day which I think has to be shared

and here is the picture I am willing to share....eeek!!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The New Thermomix TM5 v HMP Gastro

I have to admit, I have been out of the loop so to speak about all of this drama over the brand new Thermomix model that has recently hit the party plan circle. It has taken a day of lying in bed sick to catch up on all the drama. Yes, I have to say drama and I do apologise for the overuse of this word, the teacher in me is going crazy, because with Thermomix there is never anything but drama. You are either being abused for saying anything against their blessed Thermi or criticised for saying anything else is comparably better....believe me I know!  Now they have presented Australia with the new model TM5 but they have gone about it all the wrong way - wow no surprises for me!! Now I had heard rumours since I started blogging about my HotMix Pro (HMP), that a new model was going to be released within a year that would be better than the HMP - and I thought they weren't bothered by competition! I do hope all the people who have been mislead about the release of the new model are being looked after. I don't see how something like this can be considered good business ethics, regardless of whether it is legal or not.

From what I can tell, all the new functions of the TM5 are interestingly similar to what the HMP Gastro has and yes, I do find this rather ironic. All the back lash and comments I have received over the years from blinded lemming followers of the Thermomix Cult attacked me about how the TMX 31 was set to the best healthy cooking temperature. Anything higher would destroy the food molecules and I would be feeding my kids dead food - yes again, rather ironic! How then, are you going to explain why Vorwerk decided that the TM5 needed an increased temp range to 120C? Is there new scientific proof that 10C more is now better for our food molecules? Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think everyone thinks like this, but this is for the people who don't think for themselves and believe everything they hear.  Other than the cookbook chip, the slightly higher temp, and the slightly faster motor - which again the HMP was criticised for and now they are competing with - again, the irony over floweth! There is also a larger Varoma, but can we really tell how much larger it is? At the end of the day, if I was going to consider this new machine the only thing that would make me think for 10 seconds longer would be a larger bowl. This is the one thing that most woman want, and yet they still can't deliver. Who cares about a new design measuring cup and butterfly - whoopy whoo!  However, the biggest thing on most people's lips is, "tell them the price son"!  They currently have an introductory price of $1939, but what will it be when this is over? Who knows? I wish I did because if its the same price as the HMP I will laugh until I pass out.

At the end of the day, the TM5 is an attractive machine and the cookbook chip is clever. But is it still the absolute best machine on the market that is deserving of what I can only guess will be a price tag above $2000? I recommend you take a look at my previous posts of the HMP. See what is on offer, compare the two and see what the HMP offers for their price tag and compare to what the TM 5 is offering. Personally, and yes of course there is bias in this, as there is bias in every Thermomix owner's mind too, I highly recommend you try the HMP Gastro. The HMP Easy comes at a lower price tag, but for a little more, the Gastro offers a faster motor and higher temp range. I use my HMP Gastro almost every day. It does all the things a TM 5 or TM 31 can do, though it doesn't come with a Varoma, but a steaming function can still be achieved. Do the homework people, don't always settle for what you know or what your friends have. Thermomixers are a lot like Dyson vacuums. Its the in thing to purchase, and you aren't a good vacuumer unless you are using the "Dyson" - give me a brake!  Thermomix shermomix and Dyson shmyson! Buy what you like and what works for you, even if you don't purchase an HMP, please oh please do the research on all the available thermal cooking machines that are currently on the market. Buy what suits your circumstances and especially your budget.

Okay Thermomix lovers bring it on, I'm ready!!

** apparently the bowl is a little larger, 2.2L to be precise - not a deal breaker for me personally and the introductory price is $1989 not the above mentioned price of $1939 - sorry to get you excited over saving $50. ;-p*****


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