RandomBacon & MargarineFlowers

Food, general thoughts, food…

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Bottled Water, why all the hate?

Why all the hate on bottled water? Yes, I realise that it is expensive, yes I realise that it is bad for the planet to buy things in plastic packaging, yes I realise that much of it is just filtered tap water. I get the plastic hate; I guess the thing I don’t get is why target water specifically?

I drink tap water; I charcoal filter it prior to consumption because, in my opinion, it improves the taste. I always take bottles of water from home when I am going out of the house, usually in multiples because I drink excessive amounts of water. The thing is that when I run out, I buy bottled water.

I could buy a soft drink, in a plastic bottle, or an ice coffee, also in a plastic bottle but I buy water because I prefer water to sugary fizzy or milky drinks. I could buy an energy drink or soft drink in a can or glass bottle but again, I prefer water. I could buy a carton of milk drink but again I prefer water. If they packaged water in glass or cartons or cans, I would still buy water if I needed a drink but the fact is that they don’t. I try to drink water not only because I feel it is better for me than any of the aforementioned products but because I like it more. Again I understand the plastic hate but many other things come in plastic bottles and they are not all good for you so why the hate on bottled water specifically? Water is to me is a far better choice for your health than any other readily available beverage.

I would like it if people would lay off the water hating and just hate on plastic packaging in general. Doesn’t that make more sense?

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Stuffed Chicken Breasts w Peppadew Sauce

I know this photo is terrible, I took it in a not very well lit room, on my knee just slightly before I crammed all of this fabulousness down my very hungry throat. You should thank me for taking the time out to photograph it at all.

This was one of those ‘what do I have in the refrigerator’ meals and it turned out amazing.

The chicken breast was stuffed with mushrooms, spinach and feta cheese, smothered in a sauce made of cheese stuffed peppers and then baked in the oven for an hour. The potatoes were just nuked in the microwave and then topped with cream cheese (Philadelphia) and Jalapeno slices (yummy!). The broccoli was just boiled quickly and served, I like broccoli however it comes.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts w Peppadew Sauce

1 small container of stuffed Peppadews (left over from a tapas meal, about 8 or 10 in all)
4 chicken breasts
6 mushrooms, sliced
Fetta cheese
Fresh Spinach leaves

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Blend the peppadews with a little of the marinating oil to make a smooth sauce.
Slice a pocket in each chicken breast.
Stuff each breast generously with some mushroom slices, feta and spinach.
Place in an oven proof baking dish and smother with peppadew sauce.
Bake for approximately 1 hour or until chicken is cooked through.

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Who is paying our politicians?

Who is paying our politicians? Or how to get more depressed in two easy steps…

Step 1: Get up in the morning
Step 2: Read the news

It seems that we as a country are being run by the only people in the world who disbelieve the climate change evidence to such a degree that they are actively making government decisions to introduce more fossil fuels into the environment and ban or at least penalise ‘greener’ options at every possible opportunity.

I cannot think how much money it takes to convince a prime minister of a country to actively throw away his political career by standing on a platform of ‘burn more fossil fuels and stop investment in solar and wind power’. Surely Australians a whole are able to see that this is a destructive and unsustainable path, surely we as a people will put our futures first at the next election and vote out this government.

I have been, I am more and more ashamed each day to admit, a diehard Liberal voter.  Although I actively research political party policy before polls I most often decide that Liberal policy suits me best (out of a generally bad bunch) as they all have policies that I agree and disagree with in general. It is difficult to find anyone that has an all-round agreeable stance on everything I believe in, most often you have to compromise to find anyone to vote for these days…

I have many strong beliefs, not even all apparent to myself until I begin my process of choosing who to vote for but lately, considering the unusual weather patterns around the world these days, I find myself concerned more and more with making my impact, my country’s impact on the planet as small as possible. Our current government does not share those beliefs, in fact they seem to be obsessed with doing the very opposite of what those beliefs lead me to view as a good idea.

Is climate change real? I am not a scientist but I have eyes and ears. The weather has changed, that is a fact, I can see it, even in my lifetime. Is it a natural cycle? Again, I am not a scientist but if it is a natural cycle then nothing we do will affect it. The worst that can happen if we try is that our air will be cleaner, our children will be healthier, the climate may support life on earth for a little longer than it otherwise might. I fail to see a downside in this approach but then I am not becoming wealthy by promoting the coal industry, I personally stand to lose nothing by promoting ‘green’ energy alternatives. My descendants, my children, grandchildren and all future generations may have somewhere that sustains life to live. It is true that this is of no immediate benefit to me, I will live and die before the only home we have is unliveable. I do believe though that I have a responsibility, I am part of something bigger. The earth is the only planet that we know can sustain life and as such is a precious resource in itself and I should be working for its benefit, not its destruction.

In the next government election the environment will be my primary criteria for choosing a party because frankly the short sighted policies and environmental ignorance that is being shown by our current leaders frightens me. I don’t know how they sleep at night.

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Baked rice pudding

I photographed this prior to cooking. It was requested by my son when he came down to lunch over the weekend, it was something he had recently discovered his girlfriend was very fond of. Of course, his first though was ‘arrange lunch with Mum and have her cook rice pudding’. It is nice to be thought of….

Baked rice pudding

2 cups (500ml) milk
300ml thin cream
1/2 cup (110g) medium grain (calrose) rice, rinsed, drained
1/2 cup (100g) caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped (I didn’t have a bean handy so added 1 tsp of extract after simmering)
Pinch of ground nutmeg, plus extra to sprinkle
2 egg yolks
Preheat oven to 160°C.
Combine milk, cream, rice, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean and seeds and nutmeg in a medium saucepan.
Cook over meduim heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until it reaches a simmer.
Remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes to infuse.
Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.
Add egg yolks and stir to combine.
Pour rice mixture into a 4 cup (1 litre) capacity ovenproof dish.
Sprinkle with extra nutmeg.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until rice is tender and custard is set.
Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

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Oatmeal Cookies

Busy time here, financial year end, accounts to be wrapped up, reports to be done, number, figures, totals, additions, subtractions…. I am dreaming about it.

I have also recently been drafted to create a newsletter for our workplace so a part of each week is spent researching and finding news that would apply to not only our immediate office but to our clientele also. It is interesting and a little creative, I am enjoying it but it just another addition to an already busy time right now.

In the meantime my son has come down to visit and somehow it has become a tradition for me to send him home with a care package of freshly baked cookies. It is one of those things that creep up on you, you are not sure how it happened but now you just don’t want to/can’t stop so you make time for the new tradition and so it continues…
This time around I had some porridge oats lying about so I thought I would use them up in the yummiest way possible and made oatmeal cookies (I got the recipe here). I made a double batch, he took a big bagful home and the rest were very quickly devoured by my extended household.

My household still consists of an extra 2 adults at the moment as our couple of newly minted Australian arrivals try to find their feet.
In the end, all we can do is support each other and hope that we can make the world a little less of a harsh environment for those in need. ‘Pay it forward’ seems to be the handy phrase of the moment, so yeah, do that…. And make oatmeal cookies, they are good!

Soft Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups quick cooking oats

In a medium bowl, cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar.
Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla.
Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; stir into the creamed mixture.
Mix in oats.
Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 190C. Grease cookie sheets.
Roll the dough into walnut sized balls, and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
Flatten each cookie with a large fork dipped in sugar.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven.
Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Fish Bites and Lemon Butter Rice

So, today I googled ‘why are rabbits called bunnies?’ This is an example of the things that cross my mind whilst eating my breakfast. There was no string of thought that led to this curious subject; it just suddenly concerned me deeply from out of nowhere. I know now what the accepted reasons are and I can sleep tonight secure in that knowledge. I will not bore you with details, you may google it yourself if you are interested in the answer.

An excellent combination. Fish and lemon is classic and always works well.
The fish was lightly battered and shallow fried and the lemon rice (surprisingly fast to cook) made the perfect accompaniment.

Fish Bites

White fish fillets, cubed
3 egg whites
1 1/2 tablespoons cornflour
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Beat egg whites lightly to break up.
Add cornflour and salt and pepper.
Dip fish in batter and shallow fry until golden.
Drain on kitchen paper prior to serving.

Lemon Butter Rice

2 Tbls Butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup white Rice, uncooked
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
Grated rind of 1 lemon
To make the rice, Melt butter, add onion and cook over moderate heat
for about 2 minutes.
Add rice, toss in butter and cook for 1 minute. Add stock.
Bring to the boil, stir, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add lemon rind, fork lightly and allow to stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Custard Powder Biscuits

So, I am driving down the road yesterday and there is a sign, with an arrow, that says ‘Toddler Jam’. Just that nothing else, nothing to indicate what toddler jam might be for those of us who are uninitiated. I make a note to look around more carefully on the trip back…

On the trip back I see 2 more signs, identical to the first, an arrow with ‘Toddler Jam’ printed above it. I look around, trying in vain to see an event that might be construed as a toddler jam or a vending van selling jam specifically formulated for toddlers. Nothing, nothing except the unfortunate(?) placement of an industrial tree mulcher in a layby across the road from the signs with the arrows pointing directly at it…

I am left with an uncomfortable feeling that I had not fully considered the ramifications of the phrase ‘Toddler Jam’ and the feeling (or at least the hope) that the universe was playing tricks on me just for the hell of it.

Custard Powder Biscuits
Makes about 80

3 cups self-raising flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup custard powder
3 eggs, beaten
250 g butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Preheat oven to 160C.
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well.
Add beaten eggs and vanilla.
Pour in melted butter and mix well.
Knead into a ball until all flour and custard is absorbed.
Add a little milk if dry and dough isn’t coming together.
Roll teaspoonfuls of mixture into balls and press down lightly with a fingers on a greased biscuit tray.
Bake at 160°C for 15 minutes or until golden.
Cool on wire rack before storing in airtight container.

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Vanilla Slice

I am not a huge fan of Vanilla Slice from the bakery, not because it isn’t nice, indeed it is very nice. It is also difficult to eat, that is what makes me choose something else every time. I have never met a vanilla slice that is easy to eat, it always squishes its custard filling out all over the place making you look like you have been eating by yourself for about 9 minutes…unsuccessfully. This one is no exception, its saving grace was that I could eat it at home and not worry about the impression I was making on those around me. I was happy that it tasted as good as its bakery counterparts although I would use less icing in future, I will make it again as long as I can eat it quietly at home without others.

I let mine sit for a good 24 hours prior to consuming. I thought this might make the pastry a little easier to deal with but not really…


Vanilla Slice

2 sheets puff pastry
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup custard powder
1½ cups cream
2-2½ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Hot water

Place puff pastry on lined oven tray. Prick with a fork and bake for 10-15 minutes at 220°C.
Put sugar, custard powder and cream into a saucepan and stir over a medium heat until it starts to thicken.
Add milk ½ a cup at a time and whisk continuously until the custard is thick.
Let everything cool slightly.
Place in a 22 cm square tin, pastry, custard, pastry then icing.
Icing: Place icing sugar, butter and vanilla in a bowl and add enough hot water to make
thin to medium textured icing.

Recipe notes
Best after 12-24 hours in the refrigerator but can be eaten in as little as 3 hours.


Banana-Apple Muffins

The ubiquitous left over bananas were joined this week by a couple of wizened apples that had most definitely reached middle age, some time ago if I am to be honest.

I didn’t have a suitable recipe on hand that used both so I replaced the blueberries (which I am not terribly fond of if the truth be told) in a Banana/Blueberry recipe with apple. What a good idea! Worked well, tasted good, was no hassle and was all eaten up within 2 days.

That is success! Enjoy!

Banana-Apple Muffins

2/3 cup  milk
1/4 cup  vegetable oil
1/2 cup  mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium)
1 egg
2 cups  all-purpose flour
2/3 cup  sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons  baking powder
1/2 teaspoon  salt
1/4 teaspoon  ground nutmeg
1 cup  chopped apple

Heat oven to 200C.
Grease bottoms only of 12 medium muffin cups, or line with paper baking cups.
Beat milk, oil, banana and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients except
apple just until flour is moistened. Fold in apple.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups (cups will be almost full).
Sprinkle with sugar if desired. (of course it is desired!)
Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Immediately remove from pan.

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Italian Pork Tenderloin

The last of the pork tenderloin has been used. It was delicious and I don’t regret buying 7 trays of it and freezing them one bit, even though I had never cooked pork tenderloin previously. Sometimes you just have to take an opportunity when it presents itself and trust that you will make something good out of it.

This was the last of it and I wanted to make it count. This was a super tasty meal that I will make again should the opportunity present itself in the form of more tenderloin on sale. I might even try it substituting chicken, it should still hold up well.

Italian Pork Tenderloin
4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped bacon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped onion
750g pork tenderloin, cut into strips
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
Saute the bacon, sage, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, and onion 5 minutes, until onion is tender.
Mix the pork strips into the skillet, and brown about 10 minutes, turning once.
Stir the broth and heavy cream into the skillet, and season with salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened.