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Archive for June, 2013

Recipe: Polenta and Vegetable Hotpot

With the current wintery blast through New Zealand, I checked my recipe books and decided to try a new recipe, one that would cook in the crockpot while I worked on my writing. I came up with this recipe for Polenta and Vegetable Hotpot from One Pot, a book published by Bay Books.

Polenta Vegetable Hotpot

Recipe:

300 grams (2 cups) polenta

2 tablespoons oil

1/4 teaspoon paprika

pinch of cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1.5 litres (6 cups) vegetable stock or water

3 spring onions, chopped

1 large tomato, chopped

1 courgette (zucchini), chopped

1 red or green capsicum (bell pepper), chopped

300 grams (10 oz) pumpkin (winter squash), peeled and cut into small dice pieces

100 grams (3 oz) button mushrooms, chopped

300 grams corn kernels (either tinned or frozen)

100 grams (1 cup) grated parmesan cheese

1 handful chopped parsley

125 ml (1/2 cup) cream (optional)

Method:

1. Pour one tablespoon of oil into the slow cooker and spread over the bottom and sides to prevent the polenta sticking.

2. Pour in the polenta, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and ground black pepper.

3. Stir in the stock and the remaining oil and combine well.

4. Add the spring onion, tomato, zucchini, capsicum, pumpkin, mushrooms and corn and mix well.

5. Cook on high for 2–3 hours or until the vegetables are cooked and the polenta is soft. Make sure to stir several times during the cooking to prevent sticking.

6. Before serving, add the parmesan and parsley. You can also add the cream if you want to add extra creaminess.

7. Test seasoning and add extra salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with a green salad.

Shelley’s Notes:

1. I enjoyed the end result very much, but if I made it again, I’d fry off the vegetables for a few minutes in a pan and add them a little bit later in the cooking process. I think this would add a little more flavor and color to the end product.

2. I don’t think the cream is necessary.

3. I’d serve it with a salad plus some garlic bread.

4. This really was delicious and would work for a vegetarian who eats dairy products.

Review: A History of Food in 100 Recipes

AHistoryofFood

Back Cover Copy:

A riveting narrative history of food as seen through 100 recipes, from ancient Egyptian bread to modernist cuisine.

We all love to eat, and most people have a favorite ingredient or dish. But how many of us know where our much-loved recipes come from, who invented them, and how they were originally cooked? In A HISTORY OF FOOD IN 100 RECIPES, culinary expert and BBC television personality William Sitwell explores the fascinating history of cuisine from the first cookbook to the first cupcake, from the invention of the sandwich to the rise of food television. A book you can read straight through and also use in the kitchen, A HISTORY OF FOOD IN 100 RECIPES is a perfect gift for any food lover who has ever wondered about the origins of the methods and recipes we now take for granted.

 

Review:

A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell

I’m a sucker for any book on the history of food since I love to cook and the origin of the recipes fascinates me.

The recipes in this book range from ancient ones for bread to more modern offerings like Asian salads, Steamed salmon with couscous and Fairy cakes. The earlier recipes are not recipes as we know them, and I wouldn’t recommend trying them even if you could source the ingredients, but they’re interesting none the less. Mr. Sitwell tells us stories of the past and the people who influenced food and wrote recipe books. We learn of the first known use of the recipes, the available equipment, and the interesting social details that give us a clear picture of the past. The book is written in a chatty manner with dry humor. It’s a book meant to be taken in small bites rather than read in one or two long gulps.

I enjoyed reading A History of Food very much and know I will refer to it often. The more modern recipes are ones I will make—in fact I’ve tried a couple already. I found this book interesting and learned lots of things I hadn’t previously known. A History of Food is the perfect book to give to a keen foodie as a birthday, Christmas or surprise gift. Highly recommended.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase A History of Food in 100 Recipes

Review: Knit Your Socks on Straight by Alice Curtis

Straight Socks cover

Back Cover:

Not interested in knitting in the round? Wary of double-pointed needles? Now you can knit comfortable, attractive socks on straight needles. Alice Curtis shows you the secret to straight-needle sock knitting with her elegant technique for turning the necessary seam into an appealing design element.

Step-by-step instructions and photographs introduce the stitches and explain how to make a beautiful seam. Twenty unique patterns feature a variety of yarn weights and motifs and include instructions for a range of sizes.

Review:

This book contains instructions for making socks on straight knitting needles—an innovative idea for sure! There’s the basic sock pattern plus nineteen others for keen knitters. I was thrilled with the way this book is set out in a clear and concise manner with little tips and troubleshooting throughout. Details of gauge and pattern notes are shown with each pattern. The photographs illustrating the socks and the different methods used in the making of each pair of socks are beautiful and enticing.

The socks come in different sizes, which is a bonus for me with my big feet!

This book made me want to start knitting immediately. The patterns are suitable for immediate to advanced knitters. Knit Your Socks on Straight would make a great addition to the library of keen knitters and an excellent gift for the knitter in your family. Highly recommended.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Knit Your Socks on Straight

Thirteen Pieces of Advice for Aspiring Writers

Thursday Thirteen

I’ve been in a writing mood recently, which is great from my point of view. Today, I wrote “the end” on my current work in progress. Since my mind is in the groove, I thought I’d give some advice to aspiring authors.

1. Sit down and write every day. Make writing into a good habit.

2. Join a writing group, either a chapter or an online community for support.

3. Read and read widely. Analyze books that work for you and those that don’t. Use them as a learning tool.

4. Make a point to learn about websites and social media.

5. Enter writing competitions to help yourself improve and also to give yourself a writing deadline.

6. Research markets, agents and editors to familiarize yourself with what publishers and agents are looking for. This will help you narrow down who to submit your book to. If you’re thinking about self-publishing learn as much as you can about the process.

7. Keep a record of how much you can comfortably write each day. Knowledge of your possible output will help you once you’re published and facing deadlines.

8. Take online classes and attend conferences to learn as much as you can. I’ve been published for a while now, and I’m still learning!

9. When it comes to actual plotting, try all the different methods. Plotting, pansting and in between until you find a method that works for you.

10. There is no right or wrong way to write a book. There is only your way.

11. Find a critique partner/s to help critique your work and critique other writers’ work. This is a learning process too.

12. Once you’ve completed and polished your book send it off to your chosen publisher or agent. While you’re waiting, start work on your next book. If you’re self-publishing, complete the publishing process and start work on the next book.

13. Celebrate each success because writing is a difficult business and plain hard work.

Do you have any suggestions to add to my list?

Tomatoes and Cookies

Tomatoes, Barcelona market

This photo of a stall selling tomatoes was taken in Barcelona. I loved the colors and all the different shaped tomatoes. The sight certainly put me in a cooking mood. There is nothing tastier than a freshly made tomato sandwich, garnished with basil.

Today I’m visiting Romance Cooks where I have a yummy cookie recipe for you to try. There are lots of other recipes at this site too. If you enjoy cooking Romance Cooks is an excellent site for you to check out.

Do you like tomatoes and what is your favorite way to eat them?

In Quest of the Tuatara

We’ve visited Wellington several times and Zealandia before.(formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary) Last time our visit was during the winter and since we both really wanted to see a tuatara, we decided to try our luck again.

Zealandia is an inland island – sanctuary for some of our rarest native birds. The entire place is surrounded by a tall, pest-proof fence that keeps out wild cats, stoats, weasels, possums, rats and other introduced pests that decimate our native bird population.

The site was previously a water reservoir for the city, but since Wellington has grown it became unviable. There was also the problem of an earthquake hitting. The area was replanted with native trees and turned into a sanctuary.

Old Resevior

This is the old reservoir.

Native Duck

Native New Zealand duck – the scaup. It’s the smallest of our native ducks. The scaup is a diving duck and disappears for long moments under the water.

Takahe

This is a takahe, one of our flightless birds. It was thought to be extinct after 1898 but was rediscovered in 1948. There are two takahe at Zealandia – a pair – although they are infertile so are not adding to the low population. They eat tussocks, grass, shoots and insects.

Kakariki

This is the kakariki parakeet, one of NZ’s natives. They have become endangered due to loss of their natural habitat.

The day of our visit was warm and sunny – the perfect weather to tempt the tuataras out of their burrows. Tuatara are rare reptiles that are found only in New Zealand. I’d never seen one before since they mostly live on off shore islands and at a few sanctuaries.

We saw their burrows and finally, much to our excitement we spotted a tuatara!

Tuatara in Disguise

Tuatara

I still get excited whenever I think about seeing them. We watched them for ages, not that they do much except sit there soaking in the heat from the sun. It was a real privilege to see such a rare creature.

Is there any animal or bird that you would like to see in person?

Thirteen Things About Grapefruit

Thursday Thirteen

Firstly, I’m visiting NJ Walters’ blog today, where I talk about love and friendship. There’s also a giveaway.

My topic today was inspired by my new body butter, which smells like pink grapefruit.

Thirteen Things About Grapefruit

1. The grapefruit is a cross between the pummelo and a sweet orange.

2. They’re thought to originate in South Asia.

3. They are part of the citrus family.

4. It’s also thought to be a hybrid that has occurred naturally rather than one that is “designed” by man.

5. Their name comes from the fact that they grow in clusters on the tree, a bit like large grapes.

6. Grapefruit come in several colors – pink, red, golden and white.

7. 75% of the grapefruit is juice.

8. A half of a grapefruit contains around 41 calories.

9. They are a high source of vitamins A and C plus fiber.

10. Most people eat grapefruit for breakfast.

11. The trees can reach up to thirty feet in height and a single tree can produce more than 1500 pounds of fruit.

12. Grapefruit reacts with cholesterol medication and my husband can’t eat them.

13. This is a poem I learned at school and have never forgotten.

I wish I was a grapefruit,

And here’s the reason why,

When you came to eat me,

I’d squirt you in the eye!

Do you like grapefruit? Or is there another type of citrus fruit that you prefer?

Mt. Maunganui – Surf, Sun and Walking

This week I thought I’d take you on a whistle-stop tour of New Zealand. We’ll start our visit at Mt. Maunganui, a beautiful beach area on the east coast of the North Island. The area is named after the extinct volcano, which dominates the vicinity.

Mt Maunganui

The hill is Mt. Maunganui, and this beach is the perfect one for families since it’s very safe.

Mt Maunganui Walking Track

This is a view from the path that travels around the base of the mountain. It’s a busy walkway, especially during the weekend when we visited. You can also climb to the top of the mountain, which takes about an hour. A little more if you stop to take in the vista on a regular basis. We’ve done both walks. The views are great, no matter which option you choose.

Midden

The Mount (as it is known locally) was inhabited by the local Maori tribe before the Europeans arrived because it was an excellent vantage point and they received early warnings of possible attacks from other tribes. During a walk around the base you’ll see evidence of early habitation. This is a midden (a dump for waste), which is full of empty pippi shells (clam-like shellfish). Just as an aside, my father has several of these middens on his farm, and over the years we’ve found Maori stone adzes.

Surf Beach

Mt. Mauganui is known for its surf beach, and this is a view of the beach, looking back to the mountain. During the Christmas/New Year holidays the population swells since it’s a popular holiday location.

Are you a beach fan?

Fear of Flying

Thursday Thirteen

Our neighbors are currently on a plane and heading to the US for a holiday. Mrs. Neighbor is desperately terrified of flying and intended to go straight to the bar. Mrs. Neighbor isn’t alone in her fear of flying, and I thought flying would make a great topic for my TT

Thirteen Things About Fear of Flying

1. Fear of flying is quite common. A variety of factors play into the fear. Fear of heights, small spaces, traveling over water, vomiting, hijacking, and turbulence all contribute.

2. The chances of a plane crashing are very low. It’s much easier to get run over by a motor vehicle.

3. Some airlines run courses to help people cope with their fears.

4. Some people take sleeping pills and zonk out.

5. Some people have several drinks to help themselves cope.

6. Avoiding flying isn’t the best way to approach the problem.

7. Focus on the positive parts of the journey.

8. An easy way to make sure a strange noise isn’t a problem is to see if the cabin staff have suspended cabin service.

9. Experts say it’s best to keep hydrated and eat little and often to maintain energy. Evidently alcohol isn’t a good idea!

10. Out yourself and tell the cabin staff you’re a bit nervous. Get support. This is way better than suffering in silence.

11. Don’t let negative thoughts take over. If you’re not asleep keep yourself busy. Watch a movie. Listen to music. Chat with your fellow passengers.

12. Familiarize yourself with the process and noises of flying.

13. Give yourself a little treat. Buy your favorite magazine or treat yourself to that book, audio book or e-book you’ve been wanting to read but haven’t had time for yet. Buy a box of your favorite chocolates at the duty-free shop.

The more I fly, the less I like it. I need to take some of the above advice, I think, because I have no intention of staying ground-side in New Zealand. I adore traveling and exploring the world, but I’m always happiest when I arrive at my destination.

Are you a good flyer?

A Passage to India

Today I’m visiting Gerri Bowen and talking about one of my favorite topics—travel. I’m spotlighting one of my favorite destinations, which is India.

Here are a few photos to get you in the mood.

India - Mysore

This colorful character with the big knife is in Mysore, India.

India -Khajuraho

This is one of the temples at Khajuraho. It’s fascinating to wander around and study the reliefs at close quarters. The temples are known for their erotica—many of the figures are in erotic positions worthy of the kama sutra. Sex education? No one is really sure of their purpose, but they’re certainly interesting.

India - Amritsar

This is the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the holiest shrine for Sikhs. I found our visit here very interesting and the temple was beautiful.

India - Pushka

This is me and hubby at a Pushkar cafe. You can see the lake in the background and the pigeons and monkeys on the temple. I’m looking pretty skinny here. I’d had stomach problems for a couple of weeks and had malaria, although I didn’t know it at the time.

Despite this, I have a heap of great memories of India. We’ve visited twice – the second time for three months where I remained healthy the entire time.

I hope you’ll pop over to Gerri’s blog and say hello.



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