Friday, July 29

Fast food on a friday: Wonton soup

Back in the 'olden days' before I was married and had kids, I used to work like a maniac.  12 hours days in the office were quite the norm, and I as I neared my house, I would call the takeaway at the top of my street and pre-order the same thing every time.  Short soup and steamed dim sims.   Every.single.time.

When this part of my life was played before me by Miranda on Sex and the City it felt eerie.   The lady who took my order would hear my voice and rattle off my order.  Funnily enough I didn't find it irritating or embarrassing.... I kinda liked it!

This one is a great if you're serving it up to many at a time, it doesn't really take long to prepare and my Eloise asked for more 'MORE MUM!!!'.

300g pork, minced or diced
10 green prawns, peeled
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp minced or finely chopped ginger
2 tb oyster sauce
1 packet wonton wrappers

2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tb soy sauce
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 litres chicken stock
2 baby bok choy

Prepare your wontons first by placing pork, prawns, garlic, oyster sauce in your food processor and process until well combined.

Like this!  If you don't have a food processor, don't worry - make sure you use minced pork and chop your garlic, ginger, and prawns very finely, and combine.

Wonton wrappers can be found in the refrigerated section of your supermarket - usually near the fresh pasta.  If you have no luck there try an asian grocer.

Peel a wrapper of the stack (be sure it's one at a time, they are quite think) and scoop a teaspoon of mixture into the centre.

Bring the corners together and press with your fingers to make little 'purses' like this:

Next fry off your garlic, ginger and spring onion in say 1/4 cup of your stock until it softens. Then add the remainder of the stock, soy sauce (to taste, if you want to add more, go for your life!) and then bring to a simmer and add the baby bok choy.

Drop your dumplings/wontons in one at a time and stir around in between each placement.  Leave to simmer for about 10-15 minutes...


This will make plenty of wantons where no-one is saying 'hey, I got ripped off!' (as I have said about a good many short soups in my time!

So there you go!  Fast food you can make yourself! Willing to give it a try?

Wednesday, July 27

The journey: Frills in the Hills the book

I know some of you may be surprised, shocked, elated or all three by the title of this post.  Some of you may be saying 'finally!' because a few of you lovely readers have asked me when I may be having a book coming out.

To be perfectly honest, I never saw a book out of this blog.  I never started or continued the blog with that in mind as a goal or even a possibility.  I have actually said that very thing to many people who have asked me.

So just over a month ago I was approached by a well known publisher to come meet with them to see if I had any interest in writing a book.   At first I just stared at the email on my computer screen with my mouth open.   I was speechless and a bit 'what do I do know?'.  So I called on a few of my bloggy friends to firstly - squeal.... then secondly work out what to do next.  One of these friends said 'reply YES with twenty million exclamation marks'.

So I went in and met with the publisher about a month ago, we talked through ideas and I agreed to work on an outline and title, what I envisaged the look, length to be, what the message was.   Dutifully and excitedly I came home and started to write the outline.  It was so much easier than I thought it would be and ironically it all flowed like it had been in my head for years...

I had a clear vision of it's look and length and message, but where I struggled - the title.  It needed to say 'this is what it's about' in about 4 words, it couldn't be 'Frills in the Hills' because really - what does that tell someone who has never been to this site?   I came to a title... I was kindasortahappy with it.

So off my outline went and then I was advised it would be reviewed by the acquisitions team on guess when.....?  My 40th birthday.   I advised that if there was any negative feedback - tell me the day after because I didn't want to know on my birthday.

So about 5.45pm just before I'm about to sit down to my dinner that my husband lovingly cooked and a cake my frills had lovingly iced... the email came in.

It's not a yes and it's not a no.
The outline was good, but the title wasn't strong enough and it's expensive to print colour photographs.  We needed to do some more work to get it accepted.

I was devastated... and that was devastating in itself.  Why was I devastated?  Why when this wasn't something I had pursued?  Maybe my ego was a little bruised because they didn't love it?  Maybe I was pissed off with myself because I only kindasorta loved my title and I should have thought of a better one?

I took some days to work this out.  At the end of the day I came to a conclusion.  It was the photos.  I personally don't connect to a cookbook that doesn't have photos.  There are a few exceptions to these but if I think about it,  a book by me and based on this blog needs photographs.

So I had a heart-to-heart with the publisher this week and I think I got the message across that photos weren't a negotiable element.  I agreed about the title.. but the photographs I couldn't give up.

So now we're working on a way we can have photos before it goes back to the acquisitions team - I need you to wish us luck, and also - help me come up with a title!  If you could sum up Frills in the Hills ethos in a hook-y title what would you choose ? I promise to give you a signed first copy if you can nail it, because it's driving me BONKERS.

I'll update you on this journey - I've felt a bit terrible keeping it from  you this long! xx
[image credit]

Let's warm up with a pretend blueberry danish prepared in 10 minutes!

Tell me, are you a winter person or are you lusting for spring already?  I'm a bit of a winter person, but I love spring also.  What I love about winter is cooking things like this - something that you can throw together on a whim and it makes you feel warm and lovely without a lot of effort.

Whilst it's put together much like a cobbler, to me it takes me back to SaraLee danishes.  The crispy and sweet top and almost custardy insides and ooozy fruit is go-go-GORGEOUS.    It's packed full of blueberries too - which you can tell yourself like I did, that they're full of anti-oxidants... so indulging in this gorgeous dessert which I don't even think needs cream or icecream (but don't let that stop you).. can make you feel a little spoiled whilst you can at least pretend you're being just a little bit virtuous.... you believe me right?

100g butter, at room temperature
zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup caster sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups frozen blueberries
2 cups self raising flour
2 tb demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 180 degrees c

Cream butter, caster sugar and lemon zest together until light and fluffy.

 Add buttermilk, vanilla and egg - don't worry if it looks like this!

Mix 1 cup of the flour with 1 cup of the blueberries...
Mix through your batter

 Then add your other cup of flour and blueberries, stir through.  It will be sturdy, don't panic.

Turn out into a greased flan/quiche tin.   Press into the corners.   Sprinkle with the demerara sugar...
Bake for 35-45 minutes.

Leave to cool for about 5 minutes to cool before serving..!

Tuesday, July 26

What Australian Bloggers think about sponsored posts

Us bloggers have these thoughts and sometimes we'll even externalise them into a blog post, a forum post or (even!) a 'real life' discussion.  I decided to bring together a group of bloggers of different genres and experience together to understand what Australian Bloggers think as a community, of themselves and of others, their relationships with brands, PR's, blogger platforms and few other things... stay tuned each fortnight..!

My thoughts on sponsored posts are quite well known I think... but to recap I'm not a fan of doing them.  I  haven't done them, nor will I.  I don't begrudge others and read blogs that have them  - I think sponsored posts have their place in the blogsphere and I foresee in the future they will feature more heavily.. my position is that I want to be the only editor on my blog.  I don't want to hand over that editorial control to a brand or an advertising network... that's what I'm comfortable with and I think whatever you are comfortable with is good, it's your blog and your real estate, use it as you see fit!

Today's question is : 
How do you feel about sponsored posts? Doing them and reading them...? 

I don't mind them.  If I read a sponsored post sometimes I actually learn something new which is always nice.  I'd be happy to do a sponsored post if it was the right thing for me at the time. 
Amelia, Wedding, babies Everything [family] [9 months blogging]

Do them a little bit but don't really like them for the hiking site.  Will do HONEST product reviews.  Money is not that good anyway.
Frank - Our Hiking Blog,[outdoors/hiking] and Cradle Mountain [tourism] [8 years blogging]                                                                                                           

Sponsored posts have allowed me to close my online store which was taking up so much of my time while bringing in more money to the family budget. With a family of 6 and me being a stay at home mummy it's been great. And for me it works well because I receive a lot of PR emails and enquiries and Nuffnang look after all of it for me. More time for me to spend on family, blogging and craft.
Corrie - Retro Mummy [craft, family] [5 years blogging]

I have no issue with both - as long as it is stated that it is a sponsored post -i DO have an issue with the blogger just copying and pasting the press release word for word though - use your own words people (although coming from a background in PR, it was very flattering to see you press release used word for word haha!)
Caitlin - Chasing Cait [Fashion, Beauty] [9 months blogging] 

I do have sponsored posts. I like to limit them to at most one a month so that it doesn't crowd content. As far as reading them goes, I enjoy reading them as long as they're done well. I don't want to read a regurgitated press release, but a well written sponsored post will read like any other post - a certain product will just be a part of the story.
Zoey, Good Goog [personal, parenting] [2 years blogging]

I feel sponsored posts have a place in blogging. I do read them, but I if the blogger is all sponsored posts and no actual content I would stop reading. If the opportunity were to arise for me to take part in sponsored posts I would certainly look at it. If I thought the topic/products would be of interest to my readers and was of interest to me then I wouldn’t hesitate.
Amy, MahliMoo  [craft, parenting] [6 months blogging]

I'm more than happy to write sponsored posts so long as I'm still able to write them in my style and that they are of content that is relevant to the Styling You reader.
Nikki, Styling You [Fashion, beauty] [3 years blogging]

I've not ever written a sponsored post, and I would probably be very fussy if I was approached to do so. If I'm to read one, I am turned off by blatant selling, too-tenuous links between a blog's "brand" and the product they are hawking, and short posts with seemingly little point except kickbacks for the author.
Stacey, Veggie Mama [food, parenting] [18 months blogging]

I'm a great advocate for sponsored posts, providing it's a brand that you truly believe in and providing that you're being paid correctly for your time and blog post.  I've turned down a well paying sponsored post because it wasn't something that I felt right about promoting. I always read sponsored posts if they appear on blogs that I enjoy and trust.
 Melissa, One Crafty Mumma  [craft,family] [5 years blogging] 

Not a big fan of sponsored posts but have no problem with banner advertising and also writing a blog post promoting that product free of charge. Anything I advertise I prefer to write about because I only really want to sell things I actually believe are useful for my readers. I want my readers to know WHY I am advertising that product to them.
James - Aussie Green Thumb  [gardening] [9 months blogging]

What are your thoughts as a reader or potential executor of a sponsored post?  Do you think there's enough money in it?  Do you like reading them?  What advice would you give a blogger who is considering doing them or a brand considering paying for them?

If you are interested in taking part in this series as a blogger in either the technology, travel or sports arenas or a PR please don't hesitate to email me!

Monday, July 25

Slowcooker Recipe: Massaman Curry

Ever since that challenge between Kumar and that other bloke (he was clearly memorable...!) on Masterchef where they had 10 moves to 'rescue' a massaman curry - I haven't been able to get it out of my head.   I've had it in my mind I would make the paste from scratch (because that's what I do - and I love to) but I've had a real hard time getting my hands on galangal - and I figure if I'm having a hard time, you guys will be too... so I went the pre-bought paste route.  I found a recipe on best recipes and gave it a bit of a frilly tweak here and there.. as I do.

It was so delicious, the frills were literally begging for it the very next night, and with no chili, and being quite sweet, not to mention the softness of the meat, it's very child-friendly.  I'm not joking when I tell you this - you make this once - it will not be the last time!

2 small or 1 large onion, diced
2 large new potatoes, diced
1 kg beef, diced (I used a blade roast and diced it up!)
1/4 cup valcom brand massaman curry paste
1 400g tin light coconut cream
1 cup chicken stock
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp fish sauce
3 tb brown sugar

Fry some your onion in a little oil until soft, put in your slow cooker

Steam/boil your diced potatoes in the microwave for 10 minutes on high.  Whilst they are cooking put your diced beef in a zip lock bag or airtight container with the flour.   Shake to cover.

Put the beef (and any leftover flour on top of the onion in the slowcooker.

Mix your paste with the coconut cream.   

Pour over the beef.  Then mix the stock, lemon juice, fish sauce and brown sugar in the same jug and pour that over too.

Add the potatoes and then mix it all together.  Put the lid on and let it go for 7 hours on low or 4.5 hours on high.

How good does that look?  You have no idea how good it smells... yet!

Serve on rice - so rich saucy, melty beef....delicious!!!

Saturday, July 23

Sunday baking project - banana chip + chocolate chip buttermilk muffins (beat the banana price hike!)

Two things are going on with me and the shopping at the moment.  First thing is I've run out of bananas in my freezer (and I had a 4kg stash!) and secondly I'm a bit in love with buttermilk.  I see it and have a compulsion to buy it because it makes everything I bake beautiful.   You can make makeshift buttermilk if you put a splash of white vinegar (and I mean a little bit!) in the bottom of a cup measure and fill it up and leave it for about five minutes.... but I'm buying mine with freakish regularity....

So with these two things in mind and my splurge on Hershey mini-choc chips ($6 a packet from DJ's food hall) you only need a little to go along way so I think these are a worthy investment if you can get your hands on them.  Otherwise regular chocolate chips will do the job too!

I'm having banana withdrawals (never mind the kids, they look longingly over them when we see them at farmgate) but I buy a few and share them in slices... too expensive otherwise!  Banana chips on the other hand aren't expensive at all - $2 for a bag, and the first batch I made I used 1 cup of - second batch I used 2 cups, some whole and some chopped up - that's a good combination and just enough banana - the tops are  real 'muffin tops' too - a little chewy and sweet - that's what the brown sugar brings :)  so let them go a little crispy!

So give it a go this week - put them in the school lunches - sub the chocolate for oats if you don't want to send your kids to school with chocolate...

2 cups banana chips
2 1/2 cups self raising flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
2 tb canola oil
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 190 degrees c

Either with a knife or in the food processor, process/chop up 1 cup of the banana chips until they are in small pieces.

Mix together the flour, egg, sugars, banana chips (whole and chopped), buttermilk, oil and choc chips together until it comes to a smooth batter

Pour into cupcake/muffin casings and bake for 20-25 minutes

Leave to cool in the tray for about 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely before storing.

 Store in airtight container for up to 5 days or in the freezer for 2 months!
This could totally cure your (or your kids) banana cravings for a fraction of the cost!  Are you baking today?

Time to share for extra entries into the Italian cooking giveaway!

Who really REALLY wants this month's giveaway prize?  You?  Get sharing everyone!  There's opportunity for FOUR extra entries!

1.  Share this pin on Pinterest by re-pinning!
2.  Tweet I'm entered to win @frillyhills huge Italian cooking giveaway! #inittowinit'
3.  Share this post on Facebook and share your unique FB sharing URL by clicking on the time stamp (where it says when you posted it 'ie. 'a few seconds ago' and clicking on the URL/web address and copying comment here :)
4.  Add me to your circles on Google+ (if you haven't already!) and share this post on there so I can see it!

You can do this ONCE by each method until midnight 30th July (so one week everyone!)  Good luck xxx
image courtesy Cardinal Spin

By the way, Olivia and I (who is pasta mad) are heading off to Gusto Bambini in Cucina at Sydney Seafood School next month (21st August) for a kids cooking class on Italian food - a bargain at $25 for each ticket or $80 for 4 if you want to make it a family affair!
Booking and enquiries:
phone 02 90041111

There's loads of Italian cooking classes, check them out here - you can ALWAYS learn something!

[lead image credit]

Friday, July 22

Try it this weekend: Cheese Fondue

If you lived the sixties and seventies you'd remember fondue.  Fondue also had a brief revival in the early naughties, where I first became familiar with preparing it.  These were the days for me that hubby and I were in blissful domesticity, sans kids.    I had an old fondue set, I picked up at my local vinnies and we would make chocolate and cheese fondues sometimes for friends, and sometimes just for us.

When we got married, we put a fondue set on our bridal registry, and lo and behold we got two... one stainless steel and one in cast iron.  Needless to say my orange gem was liberated back to vinnies.. but I decided to keep the book that came with it....

And on the inside the inscription which I love... 'To Diane, for ME, from John'

Clearly, this man loved fondue.  If you don't have a fondue pot, you can use a regular saucepan but you need to be sure that your hob/stove can be set to a low setting, and then you have to eat quick (not hard to do promise!). The beauty of a fondue set is it comes with a burner stand, so you can light a burner with some fuel (methylated spirits) and keep it slowly simmering whilst you dip in..

1 clove garlic
3 cups swiss cheese (I used a combination of emmental and generic swiss)
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp mustard of your choice

Rub the inside of your fondue pot or saucepan with the garlic.

Add your grated cheese, wine and mustard.

Put over a very low heat, stir constantly until the cheese melts through...
 Serve with your 'dippers'   I used button mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, grilled hungarian sausage and bread cubes cut from crusty rolls.

The dipping is the fun part - double-dipping not allowed!

Have you had fondue?  What do you like to dip in or what would you like to?


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