Goodbye Fattember, Hello Droptober…

igh…. I have to say that the past 30 days have been pretty good.  Not only are we back in Sydney and settling back into married life but it’s been the inaugural Fattember.

What is Fattember I hear you say?  Fattember is exactly what it sounds like.  Fat-September.  Think Mardi Gras or Christmas (we don’t have a parade or a mascot or presents—yet) but for a whole month.

Maybe it’s a reaction to 12 months of 30 day restrictive eating challenges, or just a nice change of pace after having worked out, weighed, and portion controlled my way into a wedding dress.  It could also be just plain lazy.  I prefer to think it’s the start of something bigger.  We already have Movember, FebFast, Dry July, Parched March, and many other months of restraint (or indulgence) so why not Fattember?

Fattember is exactly what it sounds like.  Eating everything I want and not forcing myself to go to the gym 5 times a week.  Ice cream every night for dessert, fries, the odd hamburger, Mexican, cakes, candy bars, the whole shebang.  I haven’t measured, weighed or written down anything I’ve eaten.  And I haven’t worried about it either!   It’s been liberating and delicious and well, a bit decadent but it’s exactly what I needed.  Ok, maybe I didn’t need it, but I’ve enjoyed it!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end.  Fat-tember can’t last forever- I mean it could but then I would have to buy all new post “Fattember” clothes and I would probably start to take up more than one seat on the bus.    So, as The Runner makes me my last ice cream of Fattember (and literally uses up ALL of the ice cream in the freezer), I wave goodbye to Fattember and say HELLO to Droptober.

Droptober IS a real thing.  It has a website and over 2200 followers on Facebook- so unlike Fattember, it’s not something I’ve made up!

I’ve signed up for Droptober to try to negate the effect of Fattember.  A friend in Sydney started it, and it encourages people to be healthy and lose 2kg in October.  It’s a fundraiser for  Variety Children’s Charity as well.   And I’ve signed up for it.  So from tomorrow, no more candy, no more ice cream, no more fries.  I’m back on the bandwagon and back to the gym.  No excuses, 2 kg (5lbs) in 30 days…  Let’s get ready for summer and let’s get back to eating healthy.

STOP….hang on a sec.

I have an ice cream headache from Fattember’s last ice cream.  Clearly a sign.   Right, let’s rock Droptober!

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P is for Pasta!

Happy Easter everyone!  I can’t believe the Easter Long Weekend is nearly over and I accomplished none of the tasks on my (mostly wedding related) to-do list.  I’ve made a dent but somehow my expected productivity vs. my actual productivity didn’t quite match!  

Oh well, at least next weekend is a 3 day weekend as well… (yes, I am a procrastinator, but yes I am optimistic which is probably a bad combination!)

The one thing I am going to cross off my to do list today is making pasta (from scratch, not a box!)

This is something I’ve attempted before, with very mixed results- but as practice makes perfect, I figure it could be time to try again!

Plus, now that I’m 34 I want to challenge myself in new ways in the kitchen (and out of it) and get out of my comfort zone a little bit.   I also want to revisit some of things I’ve learned in the past- like Spanish, photography, and Italian.  Of course this applies to cooking classes I’ve done in the past too- pizza, tortillas, duck, tamales, sushi, pasta, etc.  Pasta seems like a good place to start- four years ago I took an Italian pasta making class at Cucina Italiana in Sydney and it was really fun.  It seemed easy, the pasta was lovely and it seemed like something I could do—no something I would definitely do all the time.  Hmmm.  In the last 4 years, I think I’ve made fresh pasta twice.  The Runner gave me a lovely book, “The Art of Pasta” for Christmas a couple of years ago and the same year another friend gave me a pasta maker.  I also have attachments for Barbie (my Kitchen Aid mixer) to help with the pasta process.  And yes, I’ve made it twice.  Both times ended in tears- and I don’t remember the pasta itself.  Only the tears.  So you could say I was slightly scarred by the process. 

But, I’m ready to give it another go.  Today is the day.

I have two cookbooks open and ready to guide me- the virtual encyclopedia of Italian Cooking, The Silver Spoon, and of course, “The Art of Pasta.”  I’m making the recipe, “Rag Pasta with tomato, herbs, and goats cheese” aka Stracci al caprino e pomodoro.  The recipe itself of course is simple, literally you cut the tomatoes and herbs, put them in a bowl and add the goats cheese.   The complicated bit is making the pasta. 

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Deep Breath.  You can do this.  You will do this.  Dinner and your reputation are on the line.  Stop eyeing up that box of Barilla in the cabinet and focus.

I start by moving aside the boxes of penne and spaghetti- their blue boxes tempting me a final time with the ease and convenience of just boiling water and popping pasta in.  I close the window (apparently pasta doesn’t like windy rooms (or maybe it’s the flour, not really sure but I’m following the recipe).  I measure out 400g of 00 flour and sift it onto my trusty silicon prep mat. 

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I consult both books before making a well in the middle of the pasta and cracking 4 eggs (1 egg per 100g of flour) in the middle.  OK, this is not supposed to be happening.  My well as it turns out was more like a pothole and there is now egg seeping over the edges and overflowing my well  like lava coming out of a volcano.  There is literally egg dripping everyone.  I sigh audibly and quickly regroup, grabbing a fork, spoon and spatula to try to stem the flow and combine the flour and the egg.  Things are getting better as I slowly incorporate the egg and the flour.  Phew! 

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With that crisis averted, I read on and realize I’m nearly at the kneading stage.  One recipe described the kneading process as taking 8 minutes and causing burning in the shoulders… I decided that now would be a good time to take a shortcut and turn to Barbie and her magic Dough Hook.  Barbie knocked out the kneading in no time (and with no shoulder burn).  I didn’t get a work out but the dough got the kneading it needed. (pardon the pun!)

Then it was time to wrap it in cling film and rest it!

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While it rested, I mentally prepared myself for where I’ve always come unstuck before- the rolling out process.  However, tonight it all went to plan.  I read the instructions in all three cookbooks and the pasta machine and when the timer went off and the hour was over, I started!

Let me tell you- I was a pasta rolling machine.    It all came together miraculously and it was actually  a lot easier than I remembered.  No dramas at all.  A few holes in the pasta which were easily solved by re-rolling but the pasta machine was a dream!  

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The best thing was that the recipe itself was for rag pasta which doesn’t need a specific shape to be cut- just rag shaped strips.  It made it really easy to cut how I wanted and it meant I didn’t have to fiddle with the pasta dough too much once it was rolled.  A great way to ease into the homemade pasta game.

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AND…

 

It tasted delicious!  The recipe itself was super simple- I didn’t peel the tomatoes but I don’t think it made a difference!  My fear of pasta making is over!  It’s definitely not something I would do every day- I can’t imagine coming home on a Tuesday and whipping up a bowl of fresh pasta but for a weekend meal, it’s perfect!  Challenge conquered!

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A Challenge!!!!!

So….. we’re having Sunday Dinner tomorrow night with 6 friends.  (I’m making Pete Evan’s Roast Pork Shoulder from his My Kitchen cookbook- FYI).  

But the question is– what to make for dessert?  Excuse me, sorry- what dairy free treat can I make for dessert?

As it turns out, most desserts– or at least most yummy desserts have cream, milk, or butter in them.  Ok, not all clearly but LOTS do.    I’ll give you a minute to think, but seriously, can you name a dessert that doesn’t include dairy in some way- either in the preparation or in serving?  Remember- no milk, butter, cream (whipped or pouring or ice) or yoghurt even.  

Exactly.  Very difficult.    So, that’s my challenge for today- find a delicious, dairy free dessert for tomorrow night.  I do have a cookbook of Vegan desserts but I think I need to do a trial run before unleashing them on non-vegans and non special diet followers.

Any advice or thoughts on dairy free dessert?

Wish me luck!

It’s Challenge Day– Don’t Freekah Out….

Sorry about the bad pun, but there’s no need to Freekah out about this challenge…. Coogee is apparently a Freekah free suburb, so we’re already off to a bad start.  No Freekah in Randwick yesterday either.  Don’t get me started on a rant about Coogee, because 90% of the time it’s ok, but every now and again it lets me down and I miss Thomas Dux, and I miss living in the city.  We’re not going to go there today-  we won’t talk about the illegal hostel next door with loud backpackers or the fact that earlier this week there was not a black bean in sight or the lack of parking.  We’re going to ignore the fact that for the second time this week, not a single store in Randwick or Coogee had what I needed and think positively- Our local Maloney’s normally has lots of lovely, special, gourmet ingredients (and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream- even though they are $13 a pint) and generally speaking I can find what I need in Maloney’s or in Randwick….not so with Freekah, not so today.    Grrrrr.  Annoying!  OH well, no need to freekah out completely, according to Google I can substitute buckwheat, cous cous or bulghur which is what I’ll do, but I am slightly bummed about it.  Oh well, the challenge is on!

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I start with the “Tabbouleh” with Preserved Lemon, very easy, and actually much quicker since I’m using Buckwheat which takes 20 minutes roughly to cook instead of Freekah which takes 50. Image

It’s all very easy, the buckwheat is washed and then put into boiling water to simmer covered for 20 minutes, and in the mean time I chop parsley and coriander in my handy Tupperware easy chopper.  (No, I’m not sponsored by Tupperware, but I am a big fan of a few of their products!)  I measure 40g of raisins and dump them into a bowl with the coriander and parsley.  I then grab a quarter of a preserved lemon, which I’ve actually never cooked with before.  I turn to the note on p.140 for helpful hints, and then I realise that p.140 is a recipe in the lemon chapter for making my own preserved lemons….  Really George and Gary?  Really????  Do people do things like this?  Preserve their own lemons?  Did George and Gary really think this would come in handy for people?  Does anyone who bought this cookbook think   “Great, preserved lemons, a really handy recipe for future use”—yeah right, I can’t imagine any situation where I would preserve my own lemons,  not when I can buy a whole jar for like $5 even in Coogee.

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So the tabouleh is mostly done except for combining everything and waiting 13 more minutes for the buckwheat to cook.  Onto the broccoli and egg….

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A special note on Broccoli.  Broccoli and I are not best friends, we’re not even mates, we sort of stare at each other from across the room and give each other the evil eye.   On the other hand, The Mom and broccoli are BFFs.  In fact, The Mom might even own shares in broccoli or sit on The Broccoli Appreciation Board, she loves it so much.  I rarely, if ever, eat broccoli as an adult, probably because I was force fed it at least 5 or 6 times a week growing up.   Ok, I exaggerate slightly, it probably wasn’t that often, maybe only 3-4 times a week, possibly only 1 or 2, but it felt like more.  A lot more.  The Mom LOVES broccoli, I remember being 4 or maybe 5 years old and being forced to eat broccoli for dinner and getting in trouble with my babysitter because I spat it out into my napkin, because as vegetables go, it’s a bit gross.  Yes, it looks like a tree, yes it’s harmless enough, unlike other vegetables like beetroot, yuck but it’s not in my top 5 vegetables…  Artichokes, Asparagus, Zucchini, Corn, and peas—those are all fantastic vegetables….. Broccoli?? Not so much.   Anyway…..I digress, but the 4 or 5 year old me sitting at the table staring down at the rainbow shag carpet crying and not wanting to eat another spec of broccoli has still not made peace with broccoli and generally speaking doesn’t let the 32 year old me buy it, cook it or eat it in most circumstances.  Broccoli and I have had a love-hate relationship for years.   The Mom loves it, I hate it.  Without a doubt, there is broccoli in The Mom’s fridge right now ready to be steamed and eaten, and for one of the only times in my adult life, there is broccoli in my house about to be cooked….

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I pretty much know this escapade is going to end in tears already, not just because of the broccoli but because the first step is to put the broiler on a high heat.  Our wonky oven door which has been broken since November could be on its last legs and could be the undoing of me today….  I’m also going to bake/broil the lamb which could also end in tears for the same reason but let’s just keep our fingers crossed for the moment…

The lamb I’m hoping will cook itself- it’s in a dish with salt and pepper, cinnamon and vanilla balsamic, and rosemary and oregano olive oil and a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary.  I’ve also worked out the exact place to put the kitchen step so that the wonky door can semi rest on it, thus reducing (or increasing) the likelihood of a serious accident.  Just ignore the sound of the other door hinge about to give out every time I open the oven door.

I throw the lamb in for about 20 minutes and while I do that I start the broccoli concoction.  It’s pretty straight forward.  I dice the onion and sauté for about 7 minutes, and then add bacon.  That cooks for a couple of minutes and then I put the dreaded broccoli in to cook for 3-4 minutes.  Everything is fine, but of course this is when the doorbell rings.   I believe there are laws of entertaining, and one of them is that inevitably everyone will arrive at the same time that there’s loads to be done.    Tonight was no exception, literally just as everything needed to be sautéed, stirred, etc. people turned up!  For once in my life, I was ahead of schedule (very rare) and when the doorbell rang, I was only one step from being ready.  I just had to separate the egg and whack the broccoli with the egg under the broiler….that and chop and macerate the strawberries for dessert.    The broccoli and egg was actually really easy to make and quite tasty considering it was broccoli!

Overall, I would make both dishes again, and possibly even branch out into other things from the book.  Both recipes were really easy to follow and not nearly as intimidating as first imagined.    Even the broccoli wasn’t half bad!  Granted, I didn’t make my own preserved lemons, but still, it was pretty easy, simple and not confusing.  Dessert was simple, although The Runner wasn’t convinced on it, Store bought meringue with strawberries soaked in balsamic vinegar, blueberries, and cream.  I loved it.  We served wine from the Hunter Valley with dinner, Ballabourneen’s Three Amigos and Tintilla’s 2011 Sapphira Sangiovese.

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The word of the day is….. Hangover….and Lasagna!!!!!

So last night, The Runner and I lost the run of ourselves slightly.  We spent the day on Sydney Harbour on a fancy dress boat party yesterday that turned into fancy dress drinking at the pub.  The Runner and I aren’t old, stay at home boring fogies, but we sort of are.  He’s always training for something which involves getting up early- like stupid early- and I’ve been on a 6 week detox.  Well, needless to say we both made up for it yesterday.  And we’re both paying the price today.  I don’t remember when I started getting hangovers- I don’t remember them in my college years.  But I get them now, and they’re horrible.  Currently I’m on the couch, contemplating whether McDonald’s is likely to make a Gluten Free Big Mac……(drools slightly at the thought of secret sauce).  The Runner went out for headache tablets and is back and lying on the floor and I’m contemplating a nap…….and Lasagna!

 

Yes, it’s Sunday and that means it’s Challenge Day!  Today’s challenge is Meat Lasagna- and this time we’re having friends around to help us eat it so there’s no backing out.  In 5 hours and 15 minutes, we’ll have 5 hungry mouths knocking on our door waiting to be fed, whether I’m hungover or not.  Unfortunately Lasagna is not a last minute “just throw it in the pan and hope for the best” type of dish, there’s meat sauce to be made, bechamel sauce to fuss over and finally the assembly.  So realistically, I need to get my arse in gear and get out of the fetal position and get into the kitchen.  Wish me luck!!!!!!!!!

 

P.S.  I have not ruled out the possibility that a big mac could be in my immediate future.  I can see the golden arches from the couch….