Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Meal of the Week - Organic Chicken, Sweet Potato, Red Onion, Pea and Lemon Risotto

The all-time-no-argument-ever-about-it-favourite-meal-at-Palazzo-Josamina-is ... risotto.

No matter what flavour combo I come up with - it's a winner with all of us hand's-down. Thank God rice is not laden with gluten - that would have been way to cruel to cope with when Monty and I finally had our coeliac diagnoses confirmed!)

As I have been away for almost two weeks, I knew it was just a matter of time before I needed to whip one up.  I managed to get to day two of my return to the kitchen before M begged for one for dinner.

This combo was a winner, if I do say so myself.

I pulled together left-over roasted organic chicken and sweet potato from dinner the night before, added in some home-grown organic Exeter Meyer lemon juice and zest*, home-made organic chicken broth and some baby peas.  (As a rule I ignore the memo from B that he is not a fan of peas - I figure if I just keep adding them into meals here and there, he'll be broken down eventually!)

Big call - but I believe peas add an extra flavoursome dimension to almost any dish - just as basil complements tomato with such finesse.  (Just saying so you know ... I would never partner up peas with mushrooms - ew - that would just not work!).

I love making risotto - it takes time, love and patience.  You need your stock to be bubbling away ready to add ladle by ladle to the bubbling risotto as you stir, stir, stir it in slowly.

Here's how I stirred this one to life ...

4 tablespoons coconut oil
3 organic chicken breast fillets, trimmed, cut into 2 cm pieces (I used the equivalent amount of shredded left-over roasted organic chicken)
1 large red onion, cut into thin slices
300 g sweet potato (kumara), cut into 1.5 cm cubes (I used the equivalent amount of left-over roasted organic kumara)
5 cups organic chicken stock
400g Arborio Risotto Rice
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup fresh organic baby peas
½ cup finely grated Parmesan
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, warmed through
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup chopped fresh continental parsley
Salt & ground black pepper, to taste

Heat half the coconut oil in a large heavy based frying pan over a medium heat and cook the chicken, onion and sweet potato in 2 batches, turning occasionally, for 5-10 minutes or until browned and just cooked. Remove and keep warm.  (If using leftovers, heat through gently and set aside.)
Bring the chicken stock just to the boil in a separate saucepan. Reduce heat and keep stock at a gentle simmer.
Add the remaining coconut oil, rice and garlic to the frying pan and stir over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until the rice is well coated with the oil and looks slightly glassy.
Add a ladleful (about 1/2 cup) of the simmering stock and stir over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed.

Continue to add simmering stock, a small ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and allowing stock to be absorbed before adding more. Start tasting after about 18 minutes - it will probably take about 20-25 minutes to cook. Cook until the rice is tender but firm to the bite and risotto is creamy

Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, Parmesan and half the parsley and then season with salt and pepper. Gently fold through the chicken, onion and sweet potato.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with remaining parsley.

Enjoy every last, delectable mouthful and start thinking about the next flavour combo you'll stir to perfection!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Salad heaven

Doesn't this look divine?  The best salad combination, ever.

Big call but true.

This winner is a heavenly marriage of red capsicum, charred corn, asparagus, avocado and tuna.

Yum.  Incredibly delicious and so good for you.

Next time I think I'll add some black beans and lime juice.  How good would that be?!

Often the cleanest, simple ingredients make the most delicious meal and this salad did not let me down.  It's as un-fussy as a salad can get - but ohhh so moreish, healthy and crunchy - I could eat another bowl of it for dinner.  And, you know what, I just might!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Best friends

These two - almost joined at the hip - they spend most of the day right beside one another - either snoozing or playing.

It is so gorgeous to see just how close they are now - Woody wasn't quite so keen on her when she first joined the family - man she was mad as a cut snake that one. Sooki often has her 'baby' with her - she loves that toy - she carries it about and gives it a good old tug and toss in the air.

Her favourite thing to do is grab Woody's leash and yank him about whenever we put them on.  Suffice to say it is not his favourite thing for her to do - he loathes it - so I have to be quick to grab his lead to stop her doing it - she is a little minx.

Still despite being annoying, Woody does love her - and they pretty much hang together 24/7.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

'Amaze' pretty much sums up our trip to the US.  Chicago, The Hamptons, NYC, Cleveland, Laguna Beach ... as you do!

We packed a lot in and have memories to last a lifetime!

We started out in Chicago, celebrating the Festival of Doug - our dear friend was having a special birthday and it would have been rude not to celebrate it!  And celebrate we did!  Three days of activities - including hanging with his wife - my bestie - Mary.  Hot Mamas we were - !

Doug and Mary took their festival on the road while we high-tailed it to the Hamptons and explored the area for a few days.  It was stunning - we were there just before July 4 so we witnessed foffing on a major scale - think meticulous hedge pruning, catering preparation and party planning!

We stayed at the most divine B and B which I wanted to retire to.  The bed was one of those types that you absolutely sink into it and struggle to get out - which is a big call for a hard core insomniac such as myself!  The home-made iced teas and lemonades were out of the world, as was the travel pack they gave us for our drive up to NYC - Hampton's hospitality at its best.

NYC was ok.

{No-one ever said - jokes.}

We heart NYC, big-time - what a city. We walked the streets of Manhattan from dawn to dusk, exploring every nook and cranny we could.  I had a list of gf-friendly eateries to try - and try them we did.  We ate so many delicious dishes.  Monty and my favourite was gf stalwart Risotteria.  OMG - we swooned to gf food heaven and loved it so much that we returned the next day for another lunch!  Their gf breadsticks were beyond heaven!

It's s shame it's a mere 20 hour flight to enjoy the pleasure!  Look at how good this menu is.  

We also loved the Butcher's Daughter.  I remember reading about it on one of my favourite NYC food blogs - The Yellow Table.  Anna lives next door - the lucky duck - and we were wandering by when we were in Nolita, so we popped on in.

OMG - yum!  Everything about TBK was beyond. The food, service, staff and decor - all memorable.  If they could open up around the corner in Woollahra my life would be complete!  I have been stalking them on Instagram, pleading that they take me seriously.  So far, no TBA but I feel it in my bones that they are scouting for a location!

Top of the list for all of us was a visit to The Strand - NYC's largest bookstore. We had high expectations and it delivered on all levels, and then some.  I think we probably ended up visiting 5 or 6 times as we could not get enough of the place.

Needless to say an extra travel bag was purchased and we returned to Sydney laden with literary treasures!

If it weren't for the fact next on our travel list was a visit to gorgeous friends who had moved from Sydney to Cleveland, Ohio two years ago we would still be in NYC!  It was the only thing dragging us to the airport as we had more adventuring we needed to do, including visiting Brooklyn, which we didn't quite manage.

While at the Greens we drove up to visit an Amish village, which was a complete and utter contrast to where we had been for the previous week or so!  You sure don't see horse drawn carriages, quilts for as far as the eye can see and such conservative attire in The Hamptons or NYC.  Chicago?  No.  Not there either!

Sara and I bought bonnets - and I am still threatening Monty I'll waltz into one of his school functions wearing my one - she is a corker and I look extra special in it.  I'm sure he'll dig it out and toss it one day soon!  

Spending time with Sara and talking the day away was a tonic.  We miss one another dreadfully and Skype is a poor cousin to the real deal. We explored the city together, sipped may cups of tea, went to yoga and sipped more tea!  

It makes such a difference to see where they now live and to have a visual snapshot of their new city.  You need a visual context to truly understand friends' lives when they move away.

Leaving them was hard, so thanks be to B that he added in one last travel diversion in the name of Laguna Beach in Orange County for a few days r and r before the long flight home.

The contrast between the urban vibe of NYC (where nearly everyone's accessory seemed to be a small cute dog) to Laguna Beach (where no-one hurries, everyone was in beach attire and the accessory of the moment was a yoga mat) did not escape us!

We lazed by the hotel pool, swam, read from the massive pile of Strand books, and I went to yoga. Perfect!

Looking back, we packed a huge amount in during our time away and had such a great time together as the tight three - everytime I look back over the photos I smile at the memories.  It had been a few tough years leading up to going away - too many funerals and not a lot to laugh about.  We all desperately needed to get away, re-charge and find new inspiration and this trip ticked all those boxes.

Coming home was a treat too. I'm not one to ever think the grass is greener anywhere.  Life is what you make of it - so appreciating what you have and where you I've is as equally important as travelling and adventuring overseas.  

No surprises that those hounds of ours know how to give a rousing welcome! They couldn't decide who to lick to death the most so gave all three of us a jolly good going over.  Sooki kept running around in circles in excitement, while Woody tried to play it cool, but then broke into joyous barking and lickety licking again! 

They had a gorgeous time down in the country staying with the elderly couple who sometimes look after them. True to form, Sooki milked it for all her worth and would only eat if sitting on Ray's lap while being hand fed!  She is the limit.

I can tell you with my hand on my heart she has NEVER been fed that way by us. Man she knows how to milk it when she thinks she's onto some special treatment.  She was born a flirt and has worked tirelessly at perfecting her art.   That all came to a crashing halt when she was offered her first meal back at the ranch!  She tried to slouch away from her bowl but Woody gave her a nudge and a growl, clearly giving her his stern, big brother routine.  "The party is over stupid - it's back to boot camp so make the most of it - eat up or she'll take it away and then we'll see who is cute?!!"

I wonder if she has managed to send a smoke signal to Ray and book in a return visit ASAP?!!!!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Quiet time, gentle living

It's been a sad, gentle time of it here - as I've been taking things quietly and spending a lot of time right here in my favourite spot, the kitchen/dining room where I tend to do most of my writing, reading, planning, working and studying… plus a lot of thinking and remembering my wee mum.

Usually the dogs are sitting right there on their bed curled up into each other - but they have just dashed off to chase a pesky bird that swooped into the garden!!!  They have been a constant source of company and each day we are thankful we still have Woody with us - that has been the miracle of the year - even our vet can't believe he survived his illness.

Endless cups of tea have been sipped here - some work done, study completed - I'n nearly done with the course - only a few modules to go so the end is in sight.

We have decided on a whim to take off to the States for a break in the school holidays coming up.  We are all well overdue for a major break and are in much need of a complete change from the year we have endured so far.

I'm getting quietly excited about our trip - it involves visiting a much-missed friend who upped sticks and moved to Cleveland - I cannot wait to see her and her fam-damily!

I better get some work done and trip planning organised - we are so lastminutedotcom with these sorts of trips - which makes it all the more exciting in many respects - but the list of chores-to-do is huge.  Best I get stuck in.

First, I'll head off to yoga - I need some gentle namaste to get into the day!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Autumn and winter in Sydney

It never ceases to amaze me just how divine the autumn and winter is in Sydney.  Crisp starts to the day often translate into beautifully sunny days, with a warm glow and the temperature is not too chilly.  It can still be quite balmy.

Bondi Beach first thing in the morning is so gorgeous - the best time to walk the hounds with hardly anyone on the beach, which is a rarity and not how you see it during the long summer months. Autumn and winter are my favourite times to be down at the beach for these very reasons.  This year particularly I have been down here a lot.  Walking, thinking, missing my wee mum, taking solace in just how beautiful and calming the beach is.

Meanwhile, the harbour view is just as gorgeous.  This is where we wandered later the same day - along the foreshore of Double Bay - where a lovely friend (Woody, Sooki and Monty's stand-in 'mother'/friend and carer) is lucky enough to live.  We've spent many hours sitting out on the grass watching the sun go down while sipping wine and solving the problems of the world!

It never ceases to amaze me just now beautiful Sydney is.  While it can be busy, loud and madcap, there are so many places where you can escape away to and just be.  Being on the coast, the water views are breath-taking - so many gorgeous places where you can escape away to and wallow away the time.

My favourite thing to do at the moment is get out early with the hounds to watch the sun rise up - the promise of a new, better day.

How beautiful was this one recently at Bondi Beach? Stunning.

Friday, February 28, 2014

My wee mum, June

On top of our worries with Woody, my poor wee mum took a dramatic and sudden turn for the worse and sadly died in February.

Monty and I spent a week with her in January which was a blessing as we got to spend lots of quiet time with her which made her smile but we knew something wasn't quite right - she seemed so frail.

She had no idea how ill she was poor love - none of us did. It happened so suddenly and right to the end she fought hard but the poor thing was riddled with cancer - it came back with a vengeance after so many years of great health.

The only solace I have is that she is (hopefully) with my two brothers.  I am not a strong believer in any shape or form but I do have some faith and hope that this is the case.

She missed them both so much - and John's death four years ago really was the start of her demise.  She became very reclusive and just plain sad.  It was too much for her - to lose Stevie was hard enough, but John as well was unthinkable.

May she rest in peace and be gardening as she loved to somewhere beautiful.  Every time I step into my garden I think of her.