Happy New Year!..looking forward and back at 2019

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday celebration and start to the New Years. I can’t believe its already 2020, it seems like just yesterday 2000 upon us. When we think about the people we were and the world we lived in, it completely mind-blowing. I’m feeling pretty optimistic about 2020. Not just for the world but also for myself.

Whats coming in 2020

So before I look back at the past year this blog, I thought I would do an update on what’s coming up in this year.

So my baby boy is coming in late May. I am 20 weeks today! I just had my 2nd-trimester ultrasound, which went really well. It made me feel better seeing that he’s still alive in there because he either kicks me for hours or is completely still. He was quite well behaved for the sonographer and she was easily about to capture all his important bits. He is kicking quite a lot now and finally hard enough for my family to just feel him from the outside. I’ve had quite mixed feelings about this pregnancy because I know exactly what to expect in terms of birth and all the sleep recently gained is going to be clawed back off me. But I’m also excited about meeting the little guy and having lots of fun baby time. Things will also be so different now that I can drive, have a few more parenting hacks up my sleeve and more confidence as a mother.

Before the baby comes I wanted to do another little trip with my family. So in a couple of weeks, we are heading to Tasmania! I’ve never been before, so I’m super excited to see what’s it all about and taste all the fresh produce.

I’ve already put together the itinerary for our 7-day road trip. It will begin and end in Hobart. But every day we will stay in a different town and visit others along the way. Some of the stops include Queenstown, Cradle Mountain, East Devonport, Launceston, Campbell Town, Oatlands, Richmond and Port Arthur. So it’s going to be quiet a fast pace road trip, with plenty of sites to see and cafes and restaurants to try. I won’t be able to do any hiking as I had originally hoped. This second pregnancy is a bit more difficult and I can only do 2 hrs walks in an air-conditioned shopping centre at this stage. But who knows, my usual travel boost may power me up so I can go for longer. Normally when I travel I only sleep 4 hours a night and don’t feel like I’ve had a great day unless I’ve been walking for 10-14 hrs. But it’s a lot different carrying a baby in my belly then in a baby carrier or in a pram.

As for the rest of the year ahead, I have no idea what is going to happen. I intend on being focused on my family, doing lots of activities and outings for the kids and trying my hand at meal prepping and new recipes. I’ve already been trying many new recipes from my Christmas present, Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clarke. So far I’ve made Black Bean Skillet Dinner, Sesame Chicken with Cashews and Dates, Zucchini Corn Cakes with Mint Coriander Pesto, Pomegranate Quinoa with Crunchy Chickpeas, Stir-Fried Tofu with Summer Squash, Basil and Coconut, and Fusilli & Roasted Cauliflower with Capers. And yes, they all taste just as amazing as they sound. Many are similar recipes that I have put together before, but just have that extra kick of flavour. So far my family have been a huge fan of all the recipes. Especially the Sesame Chicken, which has been requested to return weekly. I also really loved the Black Beans Skillet, which is so easy to put together and really satisfying. I recommend this book for you or as a present for any of your foodie friends. Its definitely going to be my go-to gift for upcoming birthdays this year.

The last big thing for 2020 will be renovations. At the end of last year, we completely re-tiled downstairs and began renovations on the downstairs bathroom/laundry. It’s pretty much complete, except plaster from the top cupboards to the ceiling and finding a mirror. The toilet, shower and barn door are also done. Marco did quite a bit of work by himself for this renovation. He removed the existing attachments, walls and floor tiles, sprayed the bronze windows black and painted and attached barn door. His father also did the electrical, which also saved us a bit.

Next, we will move onto my en suite and walk-in-robe, the second upstairs bathroom/toilet and lastly the kitchen. I’m most excited about getting a new kitchen, which I have been waiting for nearly 7 years. Since its the most expensive renovation and will have to outsource most of the labour, we may not do this until 2021. But I’m optimistic! We will use the same Carpentry business who did our laundry. They offer exactly the style that I wanted, use good quality materials and do an amazing job.

Look back at 2019

In 2019, I was a bit all over the place with blogging, especially towards the end of the year. The first half of the year was dedicated to my museum internship and the second half I was suffering 1st trimester morning/all day sickness. But I thought I would give you the highlights of all the major posts I wrote, in case you want to go back and check them out.

For the Live section of my blog, I continued writing about our Nordic trip. This 3-week trip took me nearly a year to write about in my off-time because we covered so much. I then began writing about my travels to the USA. It was a few years ago, but it is the only major trip that I hadn’t documented. I haven’t finished this, so I will continue writing about it this year. So far you can read about my first 6 days in New York and some of my older posts Eating through…each city, we well my Tips and guide for the Florida Disney parks and each Disney park in Pictures. Other things I covered this year was my Ancestry DNA results, which have since changed, so I intend to write about this in the future. And also O’s Unicorn Party.

For the Eat section of my blog, I mostly included posts from my travels and a few new recipes. I was pretty lazy in terms of recipe development in 2019. I found myself cooking a lot of the same old meals week to week. They were healthy but also familiar to my difficult child. Here are some of the recipes I did post:

For the Colour section of my blog, I was also quite slack this year. Although, I did spend a lot more time on the pages I coloured and I have improved a lot. Below are some of the book reviews I did with completed pictures and video flip through, as well as my special seasonal colour from a variety of my books.

Italian birthday feast (with recipes)

It was my Marco’s birthday today! The three of us had a little lunch out to celebrate and saw the new film, The Addams Family in the cinema. However, we celebrated with the family a couple of days ago at home. I wanted to make something special for his birthday lunch like I do every year. I was far too tired to do something as epic as my Feast of Seven Kingdoms, which I did a couple of years ago. And we only had a couple of extra guests. But since it was a special occasion, it was still a good excuse to get out my pasta machine and gnocchi board. I don’t make fresh pasta very often in my day-to-day life. I really should because it’s super easy. When I know I’m making a special meal though, I like to treat my guests (and myself) to some fresh pasta. Gnocchi I do make a bit more often whenever I have too many potatoes piling up in my pantry.

So on the menu today we had Sausage and Basil Lasagne, Gnocchi with bacon, mushrooms and sage, Panzanella salad and Sauteed Kale with raisins and almonds. I was inspired by Joy Behar’s famous Lasagne recipe, which was recently featured on an off-air video on The View. You can also find the find recipe here. My version was similar, but a little different. I made fresh pasta, some of the ingredients varied a little and I didn’t include ricotta and egg in for my cheese layer. To be honest, I totally forgot to include those ingredients when I was planning it out in my head. However, my lasagne turned out pretty good and very similar to my old Abruzzese neighbour’s version. Hers is also amazing and doesn’t include any bechamel or ricotta. As for the rest of the menu, it just evolved on the day, from ingredients I had on hand. I have included all the recipes below. Hope you like them!

Sausage and Basil Lasagne

For this lasagne, you can totally use store-bought lasagne sheets and pasta sauce. Just make sure you heat your sauce with some water added, before layering the lasagne. My lasagne was about 8 layers, but you don’t have to make yours as high. I just made a lot of pasta with 500g of tipo 00 flour and 4 eggs. I really recommend slicing your own fresh mozzarella and grating your own Pecorino or Parmesan, because it really makes a difference. It will taste better and it won’t have any anti-caking agents or preservatives.

Ingredients for fresh pasta:

500 grams tipo 00/organic plain flour

4 eggs, cracked into a bowl

1 tbsp olive oil

chilled water

Ingredients for sauce:

Olive oil

1/2 white onion, diced

1 celery stick, diced

1 medium carrot, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can Italian diced tomatoes (I used Anna Lisa Italian Diced Tomatoes with basil and oregano BPA free)

700g Italian Passata (I used Mutti Passata)

1-2 tbsp Tomato paste (I used Mutti Tomato Paste Double Concentrate)

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Layering ingredients:

10 Italian pork or plain pork sausages (free-range/organic)

350g Mozzarella cheese ball, thinly sliced

1.5-2 cups freshly grated Pecorino/Parmesan

couple handfuls of fresh basil leaves, torn

Method:

  1. First make your pasta dough, either by hand or with a stand mixer. The following instructions are for a Kitchen Aid, so you will need the dough attachment and the lid. Add the flour and place on speed 3. While the mixer is running, add the eggs one by one and then add the salt and olive oil. Mix until a dough stands to form, if the dough a bit dry, add some chilled water, one tablespoon at a time, until it forms a dough. Lastly, shape the dough into a ball and cover with a damp towel or cling wrap and place in the fridge for 30 mins.
  2. Once pasta dough has rest, you can start making pasta sheets. First, attach the pasta attachment to your stand mixer or set up a manual pasta machine, and put some flour on a large chopping board. Cut the dough into 6 pieces and leave the remaining dough under the damp cloth to stop it drying out. Roll the small piece of dough into a bit of flour onto the board, if it is too sticky to work with. Set the setting on the pasta attachment to 1 and speed on the mixer to 2. Run the pasta dough through, fold over and put through again and repeat. Then increase the pasta settling to 2 and put through the machine. Continue to increase the pasta setting and put the dough through, until you have put it through to setting 6. By this stage you will have a long pasta sheet, so you will carefully cut it in half on the chopping board and then trim them into two lasagne sheets. Depending on the size of your tray, you may need to cut the second piece in half to fit. Place these sheets into a flour-dusted tray/baking dish and place paper towels on top. Continue to make the pasta sheets until all your dough has been used and have been layered between the paper towels, to stop them sticking. Set aside until you are ready to use the pasta sheets, on the bench or in the fridge.
  3. Now its time to prepare the sauce. Heat a medium heavy-based pot with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then add the diced onions, carrots, celery and a pinch of sea salt. Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat, until the ingredients are lightly fried. Add the diced garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Lastly add the crushed tomatoes, passata, 1/2 cup of water, salt and pepper to taste. Let this simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  4. While the sauce is cooking, heat a medium-size sauce saucepan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add the sausages. Cook for about 10 minutes on low-medium heat, until they are all cooked through. Remember to rotate them while cooking. Once they are done, chop the sausages in round slices.
  5. Now its time to put the lasagne together. First, preheat the oven to 190 degree celsius and take a large baking dish. First put a little bit of sauce on the bottom of the dish, to stop the lasagne from sticking. Next layer the lasagne sheets across the sauce, top with more sauce, scatter pieces of sausage, torn basil and lastly top with sliced mozzarella and grated pecorino. Continue layering the lasagne this way, until you get to the last lasagne sheet, which will just be topped with sauce, mozzarella and pecorino.
  6. Cover the lasagne with aluminium foil, carefully not touching the top of the lasagne. This will help it stay moist while cooking. Place in the oven to cook for 20 minutes. Remove the aluminium foil and cook for a further 10 minutes to brown the top.
  7. Allow lasagna to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Gnocchi with bacon, mushrooms and sage

This gnocchi dish is really simple to make. You can omit the bacon if your vegetarian and use Cashew ‘Parmesan’ and dairy-free butter if your vegan. I made my own gnocchi, which is quite easy to do. For the dough, I just used of steamed dutch potatoes, that have been placed through a potato ricer and cooled, plain organic flour and salt. The more you make gnocchi, the better you will get at judging the correct feel of the dough, so that they cook into puffy little clouds. I also recommend freeze-drying the gnocchi on a tray for at least 30 minutes before cooking, because they cook a bit firmer.

Ingredients:

500 gr fresh homemade or store bought gnocchi

1 tbsp olive oil

250-300 gr free range nitrate-free bacon, diced

8 white mushrooms

2-3 cloves garlic, diced

6-8 sage leaves, roughly chopped

2 tbsp salted butter

sea salt

1/2 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan

Method:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add salt.
  2. While the water is boiling, take a large frypan and heat olive oil. Add the bacon and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat, until it starts to get a bit of colour.
  3. Add the mushrooms and sea salt. Continue to cook until the mushrooms have released any liquid.
  4. Add garlic and sage and cook until fragrant and then turn off the heat
  5. Cook the gnocchi, until they rise to the surface. This should take about 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add the butter and cooked gnocchi to the frying pan. Place on medium heat to allow the butter to melt. Sprinkle most of the grated cheese on the gnocchi and gently stir it through with the other ingredients.
  7. Serve gnocchi with and garnish with the rest of the cheese.

Simple Panzanella Salad

I recently made a Panzanella salad for a dinner party that I hosted and everybody loved it. Marco requested it again for his birthday. Although this one was thrown together really quickly, it was still a big hit. When I first came across this salad in an Italian cookbook it said to soak fresh bread in water. I didn’t like the sound of this so instead I toasted the bread and then let it soak up some of the vinaigrette prior to serving.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

4 sliced of sourdough bread, sliced into cubes

sea salt

2 punnets of baby truss/cherry/grape tomatoes, halved

1 cucumber, sliced

1/4 red onion, sliced

handful of basil, roughly sliced

Method:

  1. Combine the extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar in a small bowl.
  2. Place the bread on a baking tray and toss with some olive oil and sea salt, until coated. Grill for 3-4 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.
  3. Place the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and basil in a large mixing or serving bowl.
  4. Coat the salad with sea salt and then add the dressing.
  5. Add the toasted bread to the salad and mix through.
  6. Serve the salad after 30 minutes or preparing, allowing the dressing to marinate the ingredients.

Sauteed Kale with raisins and almonds

This is one of my favourite warm salads to serve. I love the salty wilted kale, the sweet onions and raisins and creamy nuts. Its not Marco’s favourite because he doesn’t like the raisins or any dried fruit in savoury food, but he was happy enough to leave them out of his serve.

Ingredients:

1/2 red onion, sliced

1-2 tbsp olive oil

leaves from one brunch of curly or tuscan kale

sea salt to taste

1/3 cup nitrate-free raisins

1/4 cup sliced almonds or pine nuts

Method:

  1. Heat a fry pan with olive oil and then add the red onion. Cook the onion for 4-5 minutes, or until it starts to brown.
  2. Add the kale with a good pinch of sea salt and allow it to begin to wilt.
  3. Add the raisins and almonds and continue to cook for another few minutes or until the kale is completed wilted and the raisin have puffed up.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everybody! I hope you had or having an amazing time celebrating the end of 2018 and a new start to new year. I am actually really excited about the upcoming year. So many exciting things are going to happen and so many possibilities.

I don’t intend starting the new year with any resolutions. But this year is hopefully going to be fresh start for my health. Once I am feeling 100% I intend to grow my family by one more, followed by my dream Disney wedding in Hawaii. So there is lots to look forward to and prepare for.

This year for this blog I’m hoping to continue to write about travel and colouring. I will also focus more on food and tell you about my new found passion for genealogy.

Before I completely move into the new year, I thought I would take a look back over the last year.


Live

So this year I did quite a bit of spontaneous travel. We visited Singapore and Nordic Europe. I am still in the process of writing about my trip through Sweden and Finland. We saw so muchand I have been a bit lazy in getting it all written up. If you planning I trip to either of these place do check out my posts to see some of the amazing places that you can visit and eat.


Eat

I didn’t post that many recipes this year, but these are the ones that made it onto the blog. As you can see its mostly pasta, since thats a big part of our diet. You can find all these recipes and more in my Recipe Index. Probably my favourite recipes for this year were the:


Colour

Adult colouring still remains a big part of my life. I find it to be a great creative outlet and I don’t see myself giving it up any time soon. I know its not trending so much for regular folks, but the colouring community is still alive and well. This year I review quite a few book reviews, including:

I also did a few of themed colouring projects:

Here are a few of my favourites from this year:

All the best for your new year and I look forward to bring you more travel adventures, delicious eats and colouring inspriation this year!

Good Friday for Pasta

I hope you’re having a great Easter weekend. We are spending the weekend at home, cleaning, toilet training and cooking. On Good Friday I decided to was a great opportunity to make fresh pasta, while I had a couple of grandparents home to watch my tot. I love making pasta, but its something I don’t do often. However,  recently I was catching up on Gastropod episodes (my favourite podcast channel) and I listened to Remembrance of Things Pasta: A Saucy Tale. This really got me yearning to make homemade pasta.

So I finally got out the handwritten Italian recipes that I learned while studying in Milan. As part of our Food and Culture course at the university, we had about five cooking lessons that taught us how to make regional dishes. We actually had to write the recipes in Italian, while we watched and help the chef making the dishes. So with a little help from my Italian dictionary, I refreshed my memory on some of those delicious and more unusual dishes we made.

One of the dishes I prepared was Culurgiones Campidanese. This regional Sardinia filled pasta, typically containing potatoes, pecorino cheese, casu ‘e fitta (Sardinian cheese), mint and pepper, but it varies from town to town. It is served with a tomato sauce or butter and sage and can also be grilled or fried. The town of Ulassai  (Ogliastra, Sardinia), until the 1960s, only prepared this filled pasta on the day of the dead (sa di e ir mortos). Other towns throughout Oglisstra and Barbagia regions also served this dish for special occasions, such as giving thanks at the end of a wheat harvest and to honour their ancestors. The culurgiones is a symbol of esteem, respect and friendship.

The recipe that we made at the university didn’t contain cheese, possibly because some of us were dairy free. Since I’m a big lover of Pecorino cheese (a hard sheep cheese), next time I would add it for a bit more flavour. The culurgiones were filled with potato, mint saffron and black pepper. So I have shared my translated and hopefully accurate account of this recipe for you today.

For the shape of this pasta, I consulted this Youtube video. I’m not sure I nailed the shape but I haven’t had as much practice as these ladies.

Continue reading “Good Friday for Pasta”

A Feast of the Seven Kingdoms

This week was my partner, Marco’s birthday. His birthday is so close to Christmas that sometimes celebrating his special day can be a bit rushed. He’s so hard to buy for and having to come up with presents for both birthday and Christmas is really hard.

Marco is a big Game of Thrones fan of both the books and TV series. Last year I did get him The Official A Game of Thrones Coloring Book and World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of the World of A Game of Thrones. He’s not really into fan merchandise, so I wasn’t sure what else he would like.

I came across a couple of things that he didn’t have that I knew he would love. I bought him the book A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, which is a prequel to A Game of Thrones. It consists of three novellas, which are set a century before in Westeros. I knew he would love this because he adores George R.R. Martin writing and its something he can take to work with him to read. I also got him the Feast of Ice and Fire: The Offical Companion Cookbook. This book recreates the recipes of the foods that George R.R. Martin mentions throughout the books. Marco can’t cook to save himself, so I knew he wouldn’t be that interested unless I was to make some of these medieval dishes for him. So for his birthday, I made a Feast of the Seven Kingdoms. 

 

Continue reading “A Feast of the Seven Kingdoms”

Summer Bean Dips

If you in Australia in the moment your either sweating it out or chilling in the air-con. This summer has been pretty brutal. I just got back from Melbourne, which was surprisingly some what worse than Brisbane. In this heat its difficult to think of something quick to cook that won’t heat up your insides. I prefer to make bean dips, which are quick and easy to put together and are a filling meat-free alternative. I like to have them on top of a veggie bowl, a salad, in a wrap or with tortilla chips. These are a few of my go-to bean dips.

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Sprouted Chickpea Peanut Butter Hummus

(vegan, raw, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1 cup sprouted chickpeas

2 garlic cloves (crushed)

3-4 tablespoons peanut butter

3 tablespoons lemon juice

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons filtered water

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon sweet hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon ground coriander

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Place chickpeas into the processor. Blend until they break down a little.

2. Add the remaining ingredients. Continue to blend until smooth and creamy.

*Makes 1 cup

 

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Red Capsicum & Green Lentil Hummus

(vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

2 capsicums

4 cloves garlic

1 cup green lentils (3 cups cooked)

2 tablespoons unhulled tahini

2/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Place the lentils in a pot of water, bring to the boil then cook on a simmer till ready. Should take less then 30mins if presoaked.

2. Roast 2 capsicums and garlic in the oven until the skin of capsicum has blackened.

3, Peel skin from the capsicum and roughly chop.

4. In the processor add green lentils, roasted capsicum and garlic.

5. While the processor is on add the rest of the ingredients.

*Makes about 3.5 cups.

 

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Cheesy Brown Lentil Hummus 

(vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked small brown lentils

2 small cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons tahini

1/2 cup italian parsley

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon curry powder

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

sea salt to taste

black sesame seeds to garnish (optional)

Method:

1. Place brown lentils and garlic in the processor and blend.

2. While its processing add olive oil and tahini.

3. Then add italian parsley and continue to blend.

4. While its still processing add garlic powder, curry powder, nutritional yeast and sea salt.

5. Once  all the ingredients have broken down in a dip, serve and top with black sesame seeds.

*Makes 2 cups

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Lime spiked Black bean and Beetroot Dip 

(vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked black beans

1 large clove of garlic

1 cup grated beetroot

juice from 1.5 limes

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon onion flakes (or onion powder)

1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika

ground cayenne pepper to taste

sea salt to taste

1 cup loosely packed coriander leaves

Method:

1. Place black beans, garlic, beetroot and lime juice in a high speed blender or processor. Blend until smooth.

2. Add the spices and sea salt to taste and blend through.

3. Lastly add the coriander and pulse till it has broken down a little, but so you can still see specs of green through the dip.

*Makes 2 cups