Monday, January 30, 2012

Meatless Monday: Gazpacho

It's been so hot here than anything we can eat that doesn't require cooking is a winner.

So here is a probably-not-that-authentic version of gazpacho.

750 grams of the best tomatoes you can find
Half a long cucumber
Half a red onion
Half a big red capcisum
Two slices of stale bread, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
150ml of olive oil
Salt, pepper

1. Score crosses in the tomatoes, then cover them in boiling water for a few minutes, remove skins and roughly chop.

2. Roughly chop all the other vegies.

3. Blitz everything in a food processor/blender.

 4. You will wind up with a very unattractive looking mush that does not appear at all soup-like. Strain it through a sieve, pushing down on it to get all the juice out.

5. Finely chop coriander, mint and extra cucumber to use as garnish.

6. Refrigerate for several hours and serve cold.

If I was doing this again I would use a quarter of an onion rather than half as I don't much like strongly onion flavoured foods. Some recipes I looked at used a few cloves of garlic rather than onion wihch might also improve things. I made this after E had gone to bed one night, thinking it would be a quick meal, but the the straining took a lot longer than I expected and rather than waiting for it to chill in the fridge we went with a few bogan ice cubes in each bowl. And so much for a meal that didn't require cooking; we wound up eating a few bowls of this as first course followed up by a healthy main of oven chips as the soup isn't really substantial enough to count as dinner on its own. That being said, it tastes fantastic and is worth the effort.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Suburban Day

A play at home. A two minute walk with the pram to the shops half a block away. A hair trim for E so her fringe would not constantly be in her eyes. Other than running around the hairdresser when we arrived yelling "running away!" she behaved perfectly. She sat on my lap and the cloak went around both of us. She was fascinated by the actual fringe-cutting (fortunately only two minutes' worth) barely moving throughout.
We then crossed the road to the lovely local cafe, where I had promised E we would have morning tea if she was good during her haircut. Seeing as she had been very good, I relented to her demands for both orange juice with a straw and a biscuit. They kept her busy for long enough that I got to have a pot of tea and most of a newspaper. I love tea at this particular cafe; they use tea leaves in a little teapot, and fine bone china cups that look as they belong in a display case rather than in a modern cafe.

We then crossed the road again to the playground. When E first started enjoying playgrounds this one was too big for her as it involves a ladder rather than stairs and has a rather steep slide. She has always lacked both fear and sense so far as playgrounds are concerned, and is now big enough that the ladder is no obstacle at all.  
Lots of slides later she requested "going home?" and I was ready to oblige. At home we spent the rest of the morning in the garden, she in her "little pool" and sandpit, and me attempting to handwater the berries, tomatoes, herbs and hydrangeas. So far this summer the twice weekly sprinkler plus handwatering on the days I am home seems to be keeping them happy. For lunch I offered "Daddy pasta" (bolognese made by D) which was rejected despite initially being demanded, and a toasted cheese sandwich, which she ate about two bites of. I decided she was full of orange juice and biscuit and could just have a big afternoon tea.

"Sleepy time" involved 15 minutes of patting and wriggling, but did eventually take place. The afternoon involved more of the same in the garden and inside with books, puzzles and "watching Bop."

A suburban day. The kind in which we didn't venture more than 200 metres from our front door. The kind I hoped for when we left our inner city apartment pre-baby. The kind I definitely enjoy now (albeit in moderation).
* There are photos on my private blog for anyone interested.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Little E and her Beloved Bop

Little E has a not-so-secret love. She begs for him morning, noon and night. She would gladly spend all day with him but her (electronic) access is doled out in strictly measured doses (usually when Mummy is preparing her lunch and dinner). She has memorised the names of all his friends and can recite his numerous biographies. She mispronounces his name with all the earnest enthusiasm that only a toddler can muster. Her devotion is, frankly, driving her parents nuts.

Spot the dog came into Little E's life via the loan of several books. After several hundred readings in the space of a month or so, I attempted to give them back. Upon seeing the enthusiasm that resulted from me producing the books from my bag and putting them on her bench, Lovely Friend E declared that she was not going to be the one to deny Little E such pleasure. And so the books remain on extended loan, and E's enthusiasm now extends to the DVD which I bought her thinking it might buy me a minute or two of peace every now and then. Although she does enjoy a wide variety of books, E will always return to Bop. She will sit and look at them by herself with concentration that is very impressive for someone not yet two years old.

So, regardless of the ever diminishing levels of Mummy and Daddy's sanity, innocent little Bop brings Little E such pleasure it's hard to begrudge him. Other fans may enjoy this site I discovered today:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

All the mornings of childhood should be like this

On Monday Little E and I had a lovely outing, just the two of us. We drove to Hillarys Boat Harbour, which is about 25 minutes up the coast. It was an easy drive with no screaming. When we got there, she consented to go in the pram and remained in it until we got to the child-friendly beach. There is a playground there that E loves that is just hard enough to be challenging for her but not so tricky that my heart is in my mouth every moment (given she has neither fear nor sense so far as climbing is concerned). She clambered up the ladder and through the tunnel, stopping at every window to gleefully "peek boo!" everyone on the outside.

The beach itself was about as stereotypically beautiful as anyone could hope for; clear, clear water with barely a movement of waves, white sand, not too hot, crowded but not excessively so with happy families at vac-swim classes. I am crossing all my fingers and toes that this morning will have got E over her beach fears. They certainly weren't in sight as she pranced and splashed and we did dozens of ring-a-rosies, giggling every time she splashed down. We had a mid-swim break to sit on a towel whereupon she insisted upon feeding half her strawberries and grapes to me, after which she actually demanded to return to the water.

Then it was time to wash the salt off ("shooow-a time, shooow-a time!") and put dry clothes on. And then the highlight of the morning for E - ice cream time. She hoovered her way through an extravagantly priced strawberry gelati ($4.60 for a child sized scoop?!), smearing it all over her face as any self respecting child should. After that she announced "home time? Eli watching Bop?" (Bop=Spot). And seeing as it was a conveniently timed request, and she was very pleasant about getting back in the pram, we made our way back to the carpark, and then home.

At home she did get a few minutes of her beloved Bop whilst I produced cheesy pasta, and then she went to bed without fuss.

A lovely morning all round.**

** Followed by a completely feral afternoon in which she screamed every time the little friend who had come to visit touched one of her toys, barely wanted to move from Mummy's lap, and then got put in her room for repeatedly touching the DVD player after being told not to. Sigh. Such are the inconsistencies of toddlerhood.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Meatless Mondays: creamy pumpkin pasta

 I've been lurking around on Veggie Mama's blog every Monday enjoying the cache of vegetarian recipes. We are far from being vegetarian at our house, but I do love vegetables of all varieties, and we have a number of vegetarian friends and relatives, so a good veggie-friendly recipe is always handy.

I'm not going to commit to eating vegetarian every Monday as we probably manage meat free meals about twice a week anyway, but I will try to post a meat free recipe each Monday even if it was consumed some other day. Here is my first attempt - creamy pumpkin pasta. It's not particularly decorative, but it creates an instant party in your mouth. Promise.

Creamy pumpkin pasta
The amounts here are very approximate as I didn't measure. I googled a few different versions of similar recipes, and then just used what we had.
500gm butternut pumpkin
1 tbspn olive oil
1/2 cup of cream
2/3 cup of full fat milk
A clove of garlic
The leaves from three or four sprigs of thyme
Grated parmesan cheese
A handful of chopped parsley

1. Cut the pumpkin into chunks, toss them in the olive oil and put them on an oven tray. Mine were probably about 2.5x1.5cm but it doesn't really matter how big they are, except that bigger bits will take longer to cook. Bake them in the oven at 200C for about 20 minutes, or longer if necessary, until very soft and a bit brown.

 3. Whizz the pumpkin into mush using a hand blender or food processor.

4. Put the cream, milk, garlic and thyme in a saucepan on low heat. You want it to boil but not crust over or curdle, so stir it frequently. Let it boil for maybe one minute then turn the heat right down.

5. Add the mushed pumpkin to the saucepan and stir it all together. Then blend it again so it makes a smooth sauce.

6. That's it. Serve it on pasta, with some grated parmesan and parsley. If I were writing a real chef-ly recipe I would have told you at some appropriate point to boil the water and cook the pasta, but you can figure that out, can't you?

 7. Eat it for dinner. Yum! If you are game you can try serving it to your toddler, but mine sent it straight back and demanded cheesy pasta for about the tenth time this week. I wasn't entirely unhappy with that as it meant there were leftovers. Yum!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A very berry new year

To see in the new year we planted three berry plants that D's brother gave us for Christmas - from left to right: raspberry, silvanberry, boysenberry.

I've never been game to buy berries myself out of fear that they either wouldn't cope with Perth summers, or if they did, that our winters wouldn't be cold enough to produce fruit. So far I am pleasantly surprised; despite a few pretty hot days they seem pretty happy. And the thought of home grown raspberries next summer is berry berry exciting!
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