Red Bean Anpan

Red Bean Anpan

My hubby had a film night to go to this weekend just gone.  He and a group of friends get together each month to watch a couple of movies at one person’s house.  Hubby decided to bake some Japanese Anpan for everyone to try.  I don’t normally like anpan, but the ones he made were delicious and I could possibly be converted…  Hubby is a wonder when it comes to breads and doughs.  Mine tend to come out tough or don’t rise or just look wrong.  His are light and golden and perfect (damn him!).

In this instance he filled the buns with sweetened red bean paste (he said it was too sweet, I thought it was ok…) and they were all gobbled up pretty quickly by the people at the movie night.  You can also fill them with chestnut filling, white bean or other things…I’d be voting for Nutella myself!  If I was allowed it…

So, on to the recipe…the one hubby used this time came from Mamaloli.com  and it gives step by step instructions with pictures to help you along.  Hubby couldn’t be bothered using dough hooks in a mixing machine (mainly because we haven’t unpacked those yet…) so he just did it by hand, stirring and mixing that way.  He also didn’t have black sesame seeds to decorate the top with so he just went with the olive oil glaze.  Try it for yourself if you’ve not had anpan before.  Mamaloli.com has lots of other yummy recipes to try so check it out if you want some culinary inspiration!

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Not sure why we are both on a bit of a Japanese-themed cooking phase at the moment…  I just borrowed a book on Scandinavian baking, called, strangely enough, “Scandilicious Baking” by Signe Johansen, so there might be a few tasty treats coming out of that one soon.    Stay tuned!

Black Sesame & Green Tea Ice Cream

Black Sesame & Green Tea Ice Cream

It’s Summer here in Australia which leads to thoughts of beaches, sunscreen and anything that will cool you down.  Which in turn leads to thoughts of ice cream.  For me anyway.  I’m not supposed to have too much dairy and I do try to stick to that, but there are days when nothing will do except for ice cream.  Especially when it’s 40 degrees outside and you can’t get cool.  Or you’re depressed and need to stand in front of a frosty freezer and fill your face with something you shouldn’t-be-eating-but-who- cares-anyway-and-oh-God-I’m-fat!

Making your own ice cream is satisfying and easy to do.  It has the benefit of being as healthy or tastebud-tinglingly unhealthy as you want.  At any rate, it has less preservatives in it and you know exactly what ingredients go in to it.  I would recommend buying an ice cream maker – they are reasonably cheap (mine cost less that $50) and saves you time and effort.  If you don’t have one, there are plenty of instructions on the ‘net for how to make ice cream by hand.  The following recipe does use a machine but you could adapt it to whatever method and equipment you choose.  I like the green tea ice cream at Baskin & Robbins which is not too sweet and has that slight bitterness of green tea to it – it’s a refreshing change from the more sugary varieties (my favourite being the French Toast one…mmmmm….*drools appreciatively*).  So here is my version which I made up in order to use up some of the ingredients I had in the fridge.  I had copied down an actual “proper” recipe from a magazine but then promptly lost it and so had to create my own version.  This greek yoghurt gives it a nice tang but, if you are not a fan of that kind of taste, you can substitute cream in its place.

Black Sesame & Green Tea Ice Cream

200ml milk  ( I used soy but you can use regular dairy if you like)

200ml greek yoghurt

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 TBS black sesame paste

2 teaspoons matcha powder

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Method

In a bowl, whisk milk, yoghurt, egg yolks, maple syrup, matcha and sesame paste together until combined.  You can taste a bit at this stage to check for sweetness and add a bit more maple syrup if you desire.  I prefer it less sweet but go with what you like!

Chill the ingredients before pouring into into an ice cream maker.  Churn until ice cream consistency is reached.  I find I usually have to stick my ice cream in the freezer for a while to get it nice and firm (if firm is the right word for ice cream…).

That’s it!  Pretty easy.  The resulting mixture is a slightly unattractive greeny colour – you could add some food colouring if you like to pretty it up but. really, that’s going against the whole make-it-at-home-with-less-additives idea.  Trying to make it look pretty in a photo was kinda hard…you’ll just have to trust me that it tastes better than it looks!

Enjoy!

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P.S If you don’t like or can’t have maple syrup, use approx 125g caster sugar instead or substitute the sweetener of choice.  You can add more or less matcha and black sesame paste as desired too.

P.S.S  It took me two years to find black sesame paste here in Perth.  I asked in every Asian grocery store I could find.  Then, after giving up hope of ever seeing it, I stumbled across it in my local Woolworths supermarket, in the aisle with the peanut butter and vegemite, so there you go.  It IS available – you just have to stop looking for it, that’s the secret.  It’s kinda like love.  Or a good hairdresser.   🙂

Antidotes and Sofas

Antidotes and Sofas

Yesterday I spent a lovely day with my Mum who has finally bitten the bullet and decided to get herself some new furniture.  First, we went to IKEA, home of all things awesome and scandinavian/swedish-designed.  I love me some IKEA, I have to admit.  I was restrained and only bought a couple of little bits and pieces while Mum stocked up on some storage items and um, a lint roller.  We tried several couches on for size, measured cabinets, oohed and aahed over some pretty lamps and photo frames and basically just spent a lot of time wandering around.  We decided not to purchase any of the furniture – Mum needed to think more carefully and measure up at home a bit more before she actually bought anything.  But we’ll probably buy the pieces she likes, online, this weekend.  Yay for new stuff!  I should point out that my Mum NEVER has new stuff – she’s always had to make do with 2nd hand things and pieces mysteriously brought home by my Dad.  It’s time she had some new things.  She does, however, want to go retro-chic with her craft room so I foresee many forays into op-shops and 2nd-hand furniture places in my near future.

Afterwards we stopped in at a gorgeous gift shop in Mount Hawthorn.  Antidote is wall-to-wall fabulousness with everything from cute hand made dolls to beautiful ceramic plates, lovely soaps and decorating items.  We’d never been there before so we stayed quite awhile just looking at everything and wishing we were rich (ha ha).  I found some cute little boxes filled with mother-of-pearl buttons (Mum nabbed those immediately) and so many ideas for future presents for family and friends.  Mum decided to get me a voucher for my upcoming birthday so I can look forward to spending that!

I loved these trinket/cake stands:

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And these beautiful wrapped soaps (I like anything with birds on…):

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Look at this amazing dresser!  Isn’t it, well, amazing?! Just right for lots of bright textiles, toys and knick-knacks:

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I loved this sign too…although I’m not what you would call adventurous.  I like to go to places I HAVE been before so I know what I’m getting into!  Maybe I should change that this year…:

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The little tag on this item says it all : general eclectic…I’m thinking that’s what I should call all my stuff:

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Lots of lovely washi tape and baker’s twine and yummy crafty supplies made of brown kraft paper (my favourite):

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Beautiful little vintage-esque bottles of all shapes and sizes.  Just right for a single bloom or just as a decorative piece:

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So, if you’re ever out in Mount Hawthorn, near Perth in Western Australia, check out ANTIDOTE on Scarborough Beach Road.  It’s lovely!

Oh and Happy Australia Day to all my Aussie readers & friends!  Hope you have a great day celebrating the beautiful country we live in…

Sometimes we all need a gentle kick up the backside

Sometimes we all need a gentle kick up the backside

Sometimes people surprise you.  Sometimes they disappoint you.  But, sometimes, if you’re really lucky, they surprise you in wonderful, loving ways.  Take today for instance.  I had just finished posting on Facebook that I was about to start on a new diet regime, go back on Weight Watchers and try and lose some weight before I turn forty next year.  A reply, posted by my cousin’s husband, popped up shortly after.  It made me cry:

Geez , you are beautiful just the way you are. We don’t want you looking like Portia or Calista Flockhart. Wit and personality beats those skinny b$%*&’s any day. Let me tell you that you have more wit and personality than any person I know.

Also getting to forty should not be about counting points or worrying about how you look(which is amazing) but a celebration of what you have achieved. I should not need remind you but I will, you survived against all odds and have inspired more kinship and family in any person that I know. All I can say is f(?&@ weight watchers and just be you. I am sure that I speak on behalf of everyone, we love you for being you.

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in feeling sorry for ourselves and focus on the wrong things – in my case, the little bit of weight I have put on and a general feeling of blah – and we forget that the people who love us love us for just being us.  It’s a lesson I need to be reminded of (shame on me) and perhaps I would do well to just think about all the good things I do have in my life and not about the few extra pounds that have crept on over the last year or so.  So to Tony, I say thank you.  Feel free to kick my butt every now and then.  🙂

Belated New Year’s Resolutions…and confessions

Belated New Year’s Resolutions…and confessions

I’m so sorry for abandoning you all over the Christmas/New Year’s period.  Moving house and dealing with STUFF has been taking up all my time and I still don’t have my computer set up.  We only just got the internet and phone sorted…I am using Hubby’s office to type this up.

Happy 2013!  I truly do hope it is happy for everyone and that the world gets it act together and starts putting things right.  There’s too much cruelty and hate and general messed up stuff going on.  This is nothing new, but it felt like 2012 was in some sort of evil, spiralling vortex of yuckiness, both internationally and in our own little part of the world.  So let’s all do better this year, ok?

I usually do write a list of New Year’s Resolutions.  I also usually stick to none of them.  By January 3rd I have usually wiped out the “lose weight, exercise more” resolution by eating an entire bowl of cookie dough and sitting on the couch reading.  I am going to try and just improve myself this year.  Eat better, communicate better and just be better at life in general. I’m going to get my diet under control.  I used to be so strict about what I ate.  Having struggled with my weight most of my life, I used to be super vigilant about watching my carbs and restricting sugar and fat and exercising every day.  Being married and having health issues has seriously diminished my ability to stick to a diet plan.  The foods I used to eat, which were healthy for me before I got sick and went into renal failure, are now on my no-no list which makes it hard to make a balanced and healthy food plan.  So now I can’t eat a banana but I can have a cookie.  Which means I don’t stress my kidney, but I get fat.  But I can’t use my renal problems as excuses for eating badly.  I have to be more responsible for my own health and TRY to do better.  So my resolution where that is concerned is to get more information and maybe see a nutritionist who can help me devise a proper eating plan. And also to just stop eating bad stuff!

I need to exercise more.  I will never be a gym junkie, I know this.  I hate working out in front of people.  I feel klutzy and ugly and fat and unattractive.  If they developed a gym where everyone could exercise in a cubicle, in the dark with their own music playing, I would sign up immediately.  But, until such a place exists, I have to bite the bullet and find a way of exercising that suits me and makes me feel good.  I have always been a “walker” and I have seriously slacked off on that this last year.  So now we have moved into a nicer neighbourhood, I am going to try to walk a few times a week, maybe get a friend involved if I can to make things more enjoyable.

I need to work on my marriage.  It was in serious danger of no longer being a marriage last year and I need to change things in order to prevent the same thing happening this year.  I need to communicate better and stand up for myself and also be more understanding of my husband’s needs.  It’s hard work.  I need to find out who I am and by being truer to myself, maybe I can help our relationship to get back to where it was to begin with – a united, strong, respectful partnership between two people with their own ideals and opinions.

I need to be more organised.  In everything I do.  I need to not procrastinate and leave things until the last minute.  I need to hoard less and be tidier.  We are already doing the dishes EVERY NIGHT so we’ve at least got a tidy kitchen every morning.  It’s a start.

I need to stop being so cheap.  It’s true – I am a tight wad.  I am known as a Bargain Queen – this is just a nice way of saying I am cheap and don’t like to spend a lot of money on anything.  I went to a friend’s 40th on the weekend.  I dressed up and wore heels, a vintage necklace and a pretty brooch.  How much did the entire outfit cost me (including shoes and handbag)? About sixteen bucks.  Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with spending less on clothes and buying second hand – in fact, it is the trendy and eco-friendly thing to do right now.  However, I also spend terribly small amounts of money on the gift I’m giving too.  I don’t mean to be mean – I happily give money to charity and would give my friends and family my last dollar if I thought they needed it – my heart is in the right place and I do seek out a gift that the recipient would truly like…I just try and find it for a bargain price.  I have a pathological fear of spending money.  Which is odd, considering my love of shopping.   I do need to just lighten up a little bit, loosen those purse clasps a tad and bust out the cash occasionally.

I need to find a job that I love.  It’s not enough to have a job I can just tolerate or manage.  I want to be happy to wake up in the morning, look forward to going to work and not count the minutes until it’s home time.  I’m turning 40 next year and I do not want to be still stuck in the same miserable job.  I need to figure out what will make me happy and attempt to find a career/job/vocation that will fit in with that ideal.  I have been saying this for a long time – it’s time to stop procrastinating and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

So, just a few little things to change (…not!).  Maybe I will succeed in some of them.  Maybe I will be writing the same blog post in 2014 but I sincerely hope not.  Good Luck to all of you – hope you reach your goals this year, or at least get that little bit closer to attaining them.  I wish you all the best.

Things I have learnt from moving

Things I have learnt from moving

We are all moved in to our new place.  It is a bigger house with more rooms and an extra bathroom.  It is not quaint nor does it have great character – it’s just one of those modern, soulless villa’s that are popping up all over the place in secure complexes around the country.  But I like it.  I loved our old, cute and quirky house but it was too small for us, freezing in the Winter and less than secure when burglars or other dodgy types came a-calling, and, anyway, we had to leave as the owners needed to move back in themselves. 

So, on the 27th of December we moved.  It was horribly hot – sun blazing down, humidity up and the new house is much warmer than the old one.  The removalists grumbled about the amount of boxes we had (“You’re both librarians!  You work in libraries! Why do you need your own books!?”) but they were friendly enough and chatted pleasantly throughout the SIX HOURS they were there.  Yes, that’s right.  It took six hours to move all our stuff.  I didn’t think it was ever going to end.  I was on my own (hubby was conveniently at work) and I thought I had entered some sort of Twilight Zone universe where a demonic moving van was forever full, never emptying and would continue to reveal more and more layers of stuff.  I actually helped the guys move and carry stuff (I’m not good at standing around doing nothing) and I think that helped to cut out some of the time I was paying for. 

Anyway, we finished cleaning and tidying up the old house yesterday, handing back the keys and bidding the place a final adieu.  I was going to take a small cutting of rosemary from the garden but forgot so will have to plant a new one at the new house.  We have no garden to speak of there – sand and dead bits of grass is all we look out on through the dining room window.  But I will try and make it look presentable – grow a few pots of herbs and flowers, maybe put up some trellis or something if we’re allowed and get some climbing, flowering plants to cheer things up a bit.

Moving is not fun.  I don’t know why people like doing it.  I never want to relocate ever again.  Ever.  But of course I will have to at some stage.  We don’t want to rent forever, after all.  I did learn some things whilst moving though, and I guess that’s the important thing (well, that and having a roof over our heads). 

Things I Learned from Moving

  1. Just because a box is labelled, doesn’t mean the contents match the label.
  2. Be careful when labelling boxes – think about what you are writing.  For instance “Bedroom Toys” will make people snigger and go “Ooooerr!” until they unpack said box and find it is full of teddy bears that you keep in your bedroom.
  3. You DO have too much stuff.
  4. There are not enough boxes in the country for you to move all your stuff.  You WILL have to beg, borrow and steal boxes from your friends, family, co-workers and random people on the street.  
  5.  For someone who has “nothing to wear”, you WILL mysteriously have more clothing than the entire population of Paris during Fashion Week.  And several hats (which you don’t remember buying).  You will have nowhere to put them and they will sit in sad little piles all over the house.
  6. You WILL regret leaving your portable wardrobes behind at the old house.
  7. In the process of packing, you WILL become so tired that you find yourself sleeping, standing upright, leaning against the fridge with a waterproof marker pen in your mouth.  You will have black lips.  The stain will not come out for three days.
  8. You will learn that friends with utes, trailers and any other large vehicles are extremely useful. 
  9. You will learn that moving during the Christmas/New Year period is a really crappy time to do anything.
  10. You will learn that your bed, at the end of a very long day, is the most valuable thing you own. 

We are still without phone or internet so I am blogging this quickly at work (it’s ok, it’s a Saturdayand I’m not actually working today).  I hope your Christmas and New Year’s were blissfully stress-free and lots of fun.  I wish you all a wonderful 2013 – hope your resolutions are easy to keep!  (Mine are going to include de-cluttering and culling my stuff…we’ll see how that pans out!).