Thursday, November 3

Nutella and Oat Cookies

Sometimes you just need chocolate. There's not chocolate in the house at all times, but sometimes you'll resort to eating the cooking chocolate, a spoonful of milo or a spoonful of nutella... right?   Right?? (please play along with me... OK?)

This recipe I found on the interwebs and set out to the supermarket here in Manila to get it happening - the original recipe called for hazelnuts but I didn't realise until I got home, that in fact I had bought walnuts.. oops. but they still taste great!

What I like about this recipe is because I'm kitchen-aid-less (sob) these don't require a mixer and it's pretty simple to put together.  Of course these aren't really lunchbox treats but are great for afternoon tea or weekend treats - I put most of mine in the freezer in a ziplock bag for when I get that chocolate hankering... as you do.

2/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup nutella
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups plain flour
3 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 190 degrees c

In one bowl mix the oil, nutella, eggs and vanilla extract until smooth.

In another bowl add the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarb soda, walnuts (or hazelnuts) and choc-chips..

Pour the wet ingredients into dry.  Mix well with a spoon.

Spoon onto greased baking trays

Bake for 12 minutes, leave to cool on trays then transfer to cooling rack to completely cool.

Don't they look yummy?  They taste surprisingly not-so-bad for you - I think that's the oats..

Tuesday, November 1

Luxury Chicken Pot Pie

After a few weeks in Manila I got a good grasp of what Filipinos like to eat by what they served in restaurants, what was available in food courts and what my workmates brought to work.   Here it's about about the meat, the sugar and the butter.  Everything here's quite Americanised with an Asian twist.

I asked people if they knew about the Pioneer Woman.  To by utter shock they don't know her in my circles here!  So I set about to correct this and ordered three copies of  The Pioneer Woman Cooks through Amazon - One for the maid who loves to cook but lacks inspiration, a new friend I've met who loves the same food as me and a workmate who is Filipino/Australian and his new Australian FiancĂ© as an engagement present.

It may seem a little over the top, but I know that book is MADE for Filipino families.  They love this kind of food.  There is a fast-food outlet here that JUST sells cinnamon scrolls!

So last weekend I set about using the book with the maid and we made this chicken pot pie.  I tweaked it a little by adding some corn (there's a distinct lack of vegetables here) and used butter in the pastry because I couldn't find any shortening.. but the results, spectacular!    The maid (Khim) was overjoyed with the results, she had never made pastry before and it was a real thrill passing on some kitchen skills to someone who really really loves food.

Give this a try for your family, I guarantee you won't make it once!

1 1/2 cups plain flour
160g cold butter
1 egg
cold water
2 brown onions, diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
2 rashers bacon, finely diced
2 cups shredded BBQ chicken
1/4 cup plain flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup cream
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tb ground black pepper

In a food processor process flour cold butter and egg until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add cold water little by little until the dough comes together:

Place in a ziplock bag or cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for one hour.

Meanwhile in a saucepan or pot heat some butter and ad onions, carrot, celery, corn and peas, heat and stir until the onion becomes translucent.

Add the bacon, stir well then add chicken and sprinkle the flour over the top, then stir well.

Add stock, wine and then the cream.  Add thyme and pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes before completely turning off and allow to simmer for a little bit..

Place in your pie dish whilst you make your pastry..

Preheat oven to 200 degrees c

Take your pastry dough out of the fridge and place onto a floured surface.  What I find easier if you at this time to shape your dough into roughly the same shape as your tin/casserole pot.

Roll out until about 4mm thick.  Roll back onto your rolling pin..

And roll onto your pie filling..

Cut around the edges, add some decoration with the cast off pastry and then with a fork, prick the surface of your pie, this allows it to become lovely and crispy... no-one likes soggy pastry!  Brush with some egg-wash (1 egg yolk mixed with a bit of milk)

Bake for 30-40 minutes until it's as brown as you like on top..

Dig in!  You'll wish you made two!

Sunday, October 30

Messages from Manila part three - weird and wonderful

I have to say I'm getting a little used to my surroundings... I'm getting used to having a driver, a maid and the food.  I'm used to the money and the TV stations and the ever present heat and humidity.   I'm not used to missing my family and I'm not used to not cooking, I'm craving those two things in my life, given they were only a short time ago the entire focus of my life.

I was just sitting in the kitchen after having cooked most of the day (oh I feel normal!) thinking to myself I'm going to miss this on some level, the (limited) time to myself, the lovely way the maid does my laundry and folds my underwear into squares (I know, it's the small things... literally!) and I need to start focussing on what I can enjoy here rather than what I'm missing.

Now let me fill you in on some weird and wonderful things I've seen here in Manila... I actually love checking out the supermarkets when I travel overseas... I don't know if that makes me a bit weird... oh well.

Alcohol is SOOOO cheap. Example - Barcardi Apple 700ml is $13!

Umm I'm sure there's a market for this but I found it hilarious - this is for the bathroom - toilet roll holder, magazine rack - for about $60!...

 Now, I'm finding it hard to find decent cheese here, most people eat this stuff  - it's like blue-box kraft cheddar - I bought some for our friend Eden ... I'm sure she's really enjoying it...

And here, TGI Fridays is huge - actually fast food is unbelievably huge here but I seriously couldn't believe it when I saw you could buy their dishes in the frozen section of the supermarket!

OK enough of the supermarket, I've been to this restaurant a few times now, and as a non-wine drinker it seems a bit wasted on me although the food is lovely... but what I want to show you is how you can serve yourself wine!  If you like to taste or try a few, you grab a card that is attached to your bill and you pour yourself what you like.  

Depending on whether it's white or red, the fridge is chilled to the correct temperature.. the prices are quite reasonable too, from about $3.50 to $8 a glass..

Now who wants one of these in your house!!?

Friday, October 28

Planning... my 40th birthday party..

Well ours actually....

Just before I left, we went out to dinner at a new local Indian restaurant.  It's a bit tucked away and I must admit I wasn't expecting much (you know, local restaurants do have a rep for being not-so-great)... but we were blown away by the venue and the food and before leaving we'd booked the function room for hubby and my 40th birthday bash...

It has an outdoor (undercover) bar, gorgeous inside seating and a dance floor! We are going ... bollywood style baby!

Hubby and my birthdays are 6 months apart and originally we had planned to have a joint 40th half-way between being around now... and well of course that doesn't work because I'm not even in the country!  But it's booked for my return and invitations are out, and printed ones are out this week.... can't wait.

(In case you were wondering, yes, I am the 'cradle snatcher'... hehe)

I bought some beautiful sari fabric in Manila, and some matching earrings.. on the hunt for hubby now... we may go down the fancy dress route again given how fantastic Fancy That were with hubby's Pimp outfit for the school trivia night.. 

I'll be letting my hair down, that's for sure, it should (cross fingers everyone) co-incide with my home-coming!

What did you do for your 40th or last milestone birthday?

Thursday, October 27

The potential of 'Us'

Earlier this month I returned home for a few days - it was whirlwind to say the least but I visited the lovely Wolgan Valley Estate for a friend's wedding. It was small and intimate but done very beautifully and tastefully. The setting was picturesque and you could certainly feel the love in the room, for a couple who had many obstacles to overcome, and a long distance relationship to their path to happily ever after.

It got me thinking about life's journey (this is starting to sound like a sermon isn't it?...) . Only eight short years ago that was me and hubby were getting married, amongst a small and intimate crowd, picturesque setting, and hubby and I had overcome some geographical issues to finally come together.

I remember when he asked me to marry him, we were living in different States, but six long months later he packed up his life and we started making a life together under one roof. I still can remember the giddy excitement of knowing he was on his way to me and what the future held. Our wedding, marriage, children, the lot.

I cut back my work travel commitments, 'We' started to make decisions together and really now I find it hard to remember a time when I wasn't part of an 'us'. And I don't mean that in an 'identity-lost' kind of way.

'Us' started out with just 'Us-two'.
Now it is 'Us-five'.

This past weekend in Melbourne I wish I had said to hubby 'Thanks for having the foresight to see that 'We' could be so wonderful. (Well I just did on my blog, does that count?) We've had bad times and good times but we are still strong and really, if it had of been up to me I don't think I would have seen the 'us' in us. (I was a relationship gumby to say the least!!)

Truly, if I'm honest I don't think he could even see see how 'Us' could be this wonderful. Life brings joy sometimes that you can't even begin to imagine...

What about you?  Has the 'Us' you've become turned out differently (better/worse) than you imagined?

Tuesday, October 25

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Oh I realise how much you have been having recipe withdrawals... because I'm having cooking withdrawals big time at the moment!

I have set myself a challenge this week.  I am going find myself a new cookbook.  I am going to cook something from this cookbook.  I am going to share this with all of you.  This won't happen until Sunday, when I have a day off, but it will happen!

So this recipe is one I whipped up before I left, and didn't have time to blog.  I know a certain client of mine will be asking his lovely wife to make these the moment he knows that I have posted the recipe because, in his words 'Those biscuits were unbelievably GOOD'.  'Even though when I put it on a piece of paper and it became transparent, I didn't even care'...

Yes, I could be accused of 'buttering up the clients' - literally but these are a great recipe for a day where you don't have time but need a bit of cooking therapy.  Easy and brilliant results - I adapted these from the LDS living website (no, I am not part of the LDS but they do have some great recipes).  If you double the recipe like I did, they will fill up your cookie jar, put some in the freezer for later and some to take to 'butter up' the clients and colleagues too.

125gr butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Tb fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of self raising flour
1/2 cup caster sugar, extra

Preheat oven to 180 degrees c

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy

Add vanilla, egg, lemon zest and juice - then the flour, it should come together to a thick and soft dough.

Roll into balls about the size of a large walnut, then roll in sugar

Place on greased baking tray and flatten down a little and then bake for about 10 minutes until the edges just start to darken.

Cool on baking tray for about 5 minutes then transfer to cooling trays until completely cooled.

Store in airtight container for up to 5 days in the pantry or 2 months in the freezer (zip lock bags are great to put them in lots of 5 for later)


Sunday, October 23

The rollercoaster weekend... in Melbourne

I know there's a very healthy rivalry with Sydney Melbourne, but honestly you are so charming.   Sydney is my part of my heart and who I am but I always love to visit Melbourne, and this trip to Melbourne was the most wonderful time I've ever had.

And although it rained for the first two days, I forgive you Melbourne.   Nothing could have dampened my days with my gorgeous family, who I met after flying in from Manila last Thursday night and attending the Problogger Conference on Friday (more on that later) I thought my heart was going to burst into a million pieces when I saw Hubby and my frills approach in a taxi to stay at the apartment I'd booked for us to have the weekend together before I had to fly back....

There were tears all round, they leapt out of the taxi and in my arms, frantic kissing and squeezing, I couldn't pull myself away.  Working long days, 6 days a week for weeks on end it seems I was desperately needing my family.   I'm a real sook.  I haven't seen them for three weeks.   15 minutes of Skype a day with my kids just isn't enough for me, and it's not enough for them.

So that night we ignored bed-time and set out for a late night bite.  We dropped the bags in and headed for a lovely dinner, nothing special but I remember sitting there staring at their faces and feeling so grateful.  

Next day (yesterday - Saturday)  we headed to the best place for breakfast - in fact we went back today.  The service was amazing and my husband who is a very fussy coffee person said it's the best vanilla latte he's had in his life, they were great with the kids too... Cafe Andiamo if you are in town..

One of the eleventy-billion baby-cinos consumed on the weekend...

And red cups too!  
Yesterday we hit the shops, because when it's raining in Melbourne what else is there to do?  I bought 3 pairs of new shoes, I was the silly person who took only 1 pair of work sandals to Manila - these ones:

- and found these on sale for 25% off in Myer yesterday

Thank you Diana Ferrari for making such comfortable shoes.... I bought them in black, latte and blue the only colour I didn't buy was red.. which is my favourite colour, not sure why actually...

We literally shopped until we dropped:  
Laura clearly has my genes, I tire of shopping pretty easily...
A perk-me-up was a carriage ride around Melbourne, I would totally recommend this - although $60 for 15 minutes or $100 for 30 minutes when you get 5 people in the carriage and you see Melbourne in style I think it's worth it.. the kids LOVED it!

The only downer to the weekend was going to a restaurant/bar which had the worst service I'd ever had.  And to top that off the worst food.  Not only could we not order half/half pizzas, we weren't allowed to take any leftovers with us and in hindsight a good thing because my hubby informed me that he'd tasted better McCains Pizzas.  My crab spaghetti was too oily and my hubby's main size of pork belly looked more like an entree.  That's the only time you let me down Melbourne.  $184 later for five of us... money better spent at Pizza Hut and buying shoes with the change....

We did cheer ourselves up afterwards by heading down to Ganache for a chocolate overload afterwards... as you do...

Today our last day together I woke up with a heavy heart, I could feel it with Olivia too, she wouldn't leave me even for a second.  We took the girls on the tram - because you HAVE to if you're in Melbourne.... 
Perfect opportunity to get pics of my frills - Olivia waiting for the tram

Thanks Mummy for my twirly dress (Love the shopping in the Philippines, dresses were $20 each!)
And we got ourselves down to.....

LUNA PARK!  Now this is an expensive little exercise, but if you can stay at least 3 hours I think it's worth it.  For us the admission worked out to be about $35 each... for unlimited rides, but unlike Sydney's Luna Park no re-mortgage of the house is necessary to buy drinks, lunch, sideshow alley or souvenirs.   The rides are good and for a good range of ages, you'll have at least 4-5 rides even if you have the littlest ones....

Mummy 'looking cool'

Free entertainment!

I'm a bit of a fan of sideshow alley...
Everyone went home with a toy after not much $$ too.  Win/win.

Then Mummy did some shopping at the St Kilda Markets, enroute back to the hotel to quickly pack and come out to the airport...

Tearful farewell... I'm not due home until December 8 - I'm hoping my frills and hubby can come visit me.. not sure when I'll have time to see them even if they do.. I would settle for the evenings and my one day off a week... I truly would.  Until then, it's back to Skype.


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